New evidence of the stunning decline of the North American injection molding industry seems to gain speed almost daily. I reported earlier on the proposed sale of GE Plastics and the large layoffs at Milacron. This is on top of bankruptcies at leading Tier One suppliers and auctions of molding machinery. Now there is news that Bob Schad is putting Husky Injection Molding systems up for sale. Schad was a skilled tool builder who built Husky from the ground up as a technology leader and blue-chip company. Its original forte was very sophisticated systems to produce PET performs. Husky later branched into injection molding, and was a major player in stack molding and other high-productivity systems. The word is that Schad is disgusted by very low valuations of Husky on the Canadian Stock Exchange. Prices of shares jumped 20% when news of the sale broke. None of this is good news for the design engineering community. GE Plastics, Milacron and Husky were among the very best companies in the field, and important innovators. Outsourcing to China is only partly to blame. There is a growing lack of appreciation of total value when many companies make purchasing decisions. CEOs are driving companies to short-term profit gains through extensive use of processes such as electronic reverse auctions. We will pay a heavy price.
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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