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.
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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