The news is full of bankruptcies at shoot-and-ship plastics processors, particularly those who serve the price-focused automotive industry. But if you have a specialty, business is great. Take for example, Micromold Products of Yonkers, NY, which specializes in production of PTFE and PVDF parts for handling of corrosive liquids. There’s technology in the design as well as in the handling of the materials. Two patents for fluid handling show the trend. PTFE, either compression molded or formed from shapes, replace glass, which is extremely brittle, inflexible, and subject to manufacturing imperfections. Other proprietary technology is used in the fusion process. PTFE has a high coefficient of expansion and the lowest coefficient of friction of any known solid material. Micromold was started in 1950 by a former scientist at DuPont, where PTFE was commercialized as Teflon. One thing interesting about Micromold: Despite its name, it does no injection molding. Why the name? “That’s lost in the mists of time,” laughs Claude Berman, engineering manager. Micromold’s sales are up about 30 per cent in the past three years.
As the 3D printing and overall additive manufacturing ecosystem grows, standards and guidelines from standards bodies and government organizations are increasing. Multiple players with multiple needs are also driving the role of 3DP and AM as enabling technologies for distributed manufacturing.
A growing though not-so-obvious role for 3D printing, 4D printing, and overall additive manufacturing is their use in fabricating new materials and enabling new or improved manufacturing and assembly processes. Individual engineers, OEMs, university labs, and others are reinventing the technology to suit their own needs.
For vehicles to meet the 2025 Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, three things must happen: customers must look beyond the data sheet and engage materials supplier earlier, and new integrated multi-materials are needed to make step-change improvements.
3D printing, 4D printing, and various types of additive manufacturing (AM) will get even bigger in 2015. We're not talking about consumer use, which gets most of the attention, but processes and technologies that will affect how design engineers design products and how manufacturing engineers make them. For now, the biggest industries are still aerospace and medical, while automotive and architecture continue to grow.
More and more -- that's what we'll see from plastics and composites in 2015, more types of plastics and more ways they can be used. Two of the fastest-growing uses will be automotive parts, plus medical implants and devices. New types of plastics will include biodegradable materials, plastics that can be easily recycled, and some that do both.
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