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.
How 3D printing fits into the digital thread, and the relationship between its uses for prototyping and for manufacturing, was the subject of a talk by Proto Labs' Rich Baker at last week's Design & Manufacturing Minneapolis.
How can automakers, aerospace contractors, and other OEMs get new metal alloys that are stronger, harder, and can survive ever higher temperatures? One way is to redesign their crystalline structures at the nanoscale and microscale.
Although a lot of the excitement about 3D printing and additive manufacturing surrounds its ability to make end-products and functional prototypes, some often ignored applications are the big improvements that can come by using it for tooling, jigs, and fixtures.
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