Eastman Chemical is introducing at K 2007 a new material it describes as the most important plastic resin developed in many years. Tritan copolyester uses a new monomer (not identified) to provide a higher glass transition temperature (Tg) than traditional copolyesters. The first grade will target polycarbonate applications in housewares where the new material offers superior chemical resistance and hydrolytic stability. Three commercial applications were announced at the show: Camelbak Products, Petaluma, CA, for a re-usable sports water bottle; VitaMix Corp., Olmstead Falls, OH, for a blender container; and Carlisle Food Service Products,Oklahoma City, OK; for a commercial soup bowl. CamelBak and Vita-Mix specified the new resin in part because it contains no bisphenol-A. Tom Pecorini, senior research associate at Eastman, says the new material has comparable shrinkage rates to PC, requiring no changes to the tooling. Another benefit: Tritan has a lower density than PC, boosting yield. Eastman said it plans to extend the grade slate, but gave no details.
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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