Use of bioabsorbable polymers as a medical device is moving to what I think is an amazing new level. Abbott vascular announced successful initial tests of a full bioabsorbable stent used to prop open diseased coronary arteries. The device is called ABSORB because it is completely absorbed back into the body after it restores blood flow, and the blood vessel heals. Six month results for the first 30 patients in the Abbott trial showed similar rates of success as metal stents. The new stent is made of polylactic acid, which is widely used in dissolvable sutures and anchor screws. Engineers in Japan are also rapidly developing mechanical applications for PLA.
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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