Booming demand for aircraft and power generation plants is fueling higher requirements for a specialized investment casting process that creates complex hollow internal shapes. Use of molded ceramic cores allows turbine engine blades and vanes to be cast to size with complex cooling passages, permitting engines to operate at higher temperatures with greater efficiency. GE Aviation has a record number of engines on order through 2012, its third record year in a row. The cores are also used for turbines in natural gas power generation plants.
One of the beneficiaries is a company called Certech, which is the largest independent producer of ceramic cores for investment casting. Technology growth is in materials development. “We’re always looking for a better mousetrap to give a better yield to the customer,” says Michael Kasberg, vice president and general manager of Certech. “When they pour metal around our parts sometimes they want to pour hotter metal. As a result you need a ceramic that won’t melt when it sees a higher temperature. “
The new composites manufacturing innovation center is intended to be a source of grand challenges for industry, like the kind that got us to the moon under JFK. These aren't the words its new CEO Craig Blue used, but that's the idea and the vision behind the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation (IACMI).
The 100% solar-powered airplane Solar Impulse 2 is prepping for its upcoming flight, becoming the first plane to fly around the world without using fuel. It's able to do so because of above-average performance by all of the technologies that go into it, especially materials.
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.
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