What do US military planners consider top materials research targets? Well according to the head of the Pentagon’s research arm (the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency or DARPA) low-cost titanium tops the list. Titanium is in increasing demand for light weight aircraft and stealth-seeking submarines, while its costs are rising and significant amounts of supply are controlled by Russia. One troubling indication is the recent huge supply agreement made between Boeing and Russia’s top titanium provider. DARPA has distributed more than $20 million in grants in efforts to develop lower-cost titanium, as well as material that would have improved fabrication capabilities. DuPont is teaming with a company called MER to explore a technology in which titanium dioxide can be converted into titanium power which can be easily shaped through molding or casting processes.
Alcoa has unveiled a new manufacturing and materials technology for making aluminum sheet, aimed especially at automotive, industrial, and packaging applications. If all its claims are true, this is a major breakthrough, and may convince more automotive engineers to use aluminum.
NASA has just installed a giant robot to help in its research on composite aerospace materials, like those used for the Orion spacecraft. The agency wants to shave the time it takes to get composites through design, test, and manufacturing stages.
The European Space Agency (ESA) is working with architects Foster + Partners to test the possibility of using lunar regolith, or moon rocks, and 3D printing to make structures for use on the moon. A new video shows some cool animations of a hypothetical lunar mission that carries out this vision.
If there's one thing 3D printing's good for, it's customization. New Balance Athletic Shoe Company has begun using 3D printing to make customized spike plates for its running shoes made for members of its Team New Balance runners. They provide better traction and shave off a tiny bit of weight.
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