The Chevy Volt got big headlines at the Detroit Auto Show because of its electric power train. There was a tons of news in the materials as well. The materials used in a high-tech composite hood are made from regenerated plastic bottle scrap. In a proprietary GE Plastics process, bottles are reduced to their chemical constituents, which are then recovered for the manufacture of Xenoy iQ resins, which were first announced last July. As a result, there is no sacrifice in physical properties of the material, as can be the case with recycle resins. Denso, a Tier One automotive supplier, based in Kariya, Japan, has been validating applications.
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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