New plastics/metal hybrids introduced at K 2007 by A. Schulman eliminate soldering for electronic parts and also create shielded housings. “Conductor paths and contact points for connectors and cables can be injection molded simultaneously,” says Thilo Stier, innovation manager, told me at the packed Schulman stand this morning. Traditional lead frame techniques are replaced by the hybrids, called TinCo. They consist of 15 percent thermoplastics, such as nylon; 30 percent of a low-melting alloy such as tin; and 55 percent copper fiber. Nylon is overmolded with the low melting metal in a two-barrel injection molding machine using conventional tooling. Siemens is a development partner. Five other OEMs are also beta testing the technology under secrecy agreements. The process was demonstrated at the K Fair on an Arburg press. Due to the high loading of copper, the hybrid has excellent specific electrical conductivity—greater than 106 S/m. Most plastic and elastomers can be used as the matrix in the compound. Cycle times are short due to the material’s high thermal conductivity.
A self-propelled robot developed by a team of researchers headed by MIT promises to detect leaks quickly and accurately in gas pipelines, eliminating the likelihood of dangerous explosions. The robot may also be useful in water and petroleum pipe leak detection.
Aerojet Rocketdyne has built and successfully hot-fire tested an entire 3D-printed rocket engine. In other news, NASA's 3D-printed rocket engine injectors survived tests generating a record 20,000 pounds of thrust. Some performed equally well or better than welded parts.
Researchers at MIT's d'Arbeloff Laboratory are developing shoulder- and hip-mounted robotic arms to help workers in aircraft manufacturing perform difficult or complex assembly tasks that would normally require two people.
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