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.
Artificially created metamaterials are already appearing in niche applications like electronics, communications, and defense, says a new report from Lux Research. How quickly they become mainstream depends on cost-effective manufacturing methods, which will include additive manufacturing.
SpaceX has 3D printed and successfully hot-fired a SuperDraco engine chamber made of Inconel, a high-performance superalloy, using direct metal laser sintering (DMLS). The company's first 3D-printed rocket engine part, a main oxidizer valve body for the Falcon 9 rocket, launched in January and is now qualified on all Falcon 9 flights.
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and MIT have 3D-printed a new class of metamaterials that are both exceptionally light and have exceptional strength and stiffness. The new metamaterials maintain a nearly constant stiffness per unit of mass density, over three orders of magnitude.
Smart composites that let the material's structural health be monitored automatically and continuously are getting closer to reality. R&D partners in an EU-sponsored project have demonstrated what they say is the first complete, miniaturized, fiber-optic sensor system entirely embedded inside a fiber-reinforced composite.
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