One of the best showcases in new plastics technology is the annual competition in automotive plastics held by the Society of Plastics Engineers. This year’s grand prize, announced last night, went to General Motors for backlighting using color-converting plastic in the Tahoe SUV. The patented system for producing custom-colored interior backlighting via LEDs (fed through light distribution pipes) uses fluorescing dyes and proprietary light-scattering additives in translucent resins used to mold buttons, knobs, and backlit plates rather than expensive custom-colored LED bulbs. The change in color control makes backlighting in low-volume, niche colors economically feasible. The system supplier is Delphi Electronics & Safety with material from RTP, BASF, and Bayer MaterialScience. The tool was made by Kno-Mar Tool in Clearwater, FL.
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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