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.
Siemens and Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology have achieved a faster production process based on selective laser melting for speeding up the prototyping of big, complex metal parts in gas turbine engines.
BMW has already incorporated more than 10,000 3D-printed parts in the Rolls-Royce Phantom and intends to expand the use of 3D printing in its cars even more in the future. Meanwhile, Daimler has started using additive manufacturing for producing spare parts in Mercedes-Benz Trucks.
SABIC's lightweighting polycarbonate glazing materials have appeared for the first time in a production car: the rear quarter window of Toyota's special edition 86 GRMN sports car, where they're saving 50% of its weight compared to conventional glass.
Design engineers play a big role in selecting both suppliers and materials for their designs. Our most recent Design News Materials Survey says they continue to be highly involved, in some ways even more than the last time we asked to peek inside their cubicles.
Daihatsu is one of the first carmakers to customize car exteriors using 3D printing's mass customization capabilities. Effect Skins -- small exterior bumper and fender panels in different colors and textures -- can be ordered for its Copen convertible.
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