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.
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.