Engineers still need to make tradeoffs when trying to achieve improved thermal conductivity in plastics. One of the biggest challenges in plastics design today is efficient heat removal from smaller components, some of which operate at higher voltages. Example: LED arrays are becoming more popular in auto headlamps to conserve energy. Research data presented by DuPont at its pre-K 2007 press conference in Prague show three different approaches: 1) Use of high filler content including carbon fiber achieves a high rate of thermal conductivity but is difficult to mold, 2) Boron nitride coated graphite coupled with copper particles coated with glass also work well, but are not cost effective and also have molding issues, and 3) Use of ceramic particles as fillers does not achieve the level of thermal conductivity required by emerging applications.
A new compression molding compound material combines the light weight, strength, and rigidity of carbon fibers with the flexibility and lower cost of glass materials in a composite compatible with automotive production.
Plastic bearings are real and millions of them are in use doing heavy-duty jobs we used to think only metals could do. Some of Germany-based igus's bearings are traveling around the world as functional parts in a car to demonstrate what they can do.
Baxter showed off his 2.0-derived moves at ATX West this year. The big red guy still looks pretty much the same, but has some new abilities, mostly due to software. The research robot version is now being used in corporate R&D departments as a design platform.
End-production using 3D printing, including objects made of multiple materials in one pass, is getting closer to reality as we saw on the exhibit floor at the recent Pacific Design & Manufacturing Show.