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 self-propelled robot developed by a team of researchers headed by MIT promises to detect leaks quickly and accurately in gas pipelines, eliminating the likelihood of dangerous explosions. The robot may also be useful in water and petroleum pipe leak detection.
Aerojet Rocketdyne has built and successfully hot-fire tested an entire 3D-printed rocket engine. In other news, NASA's 3D-printed rocket engine injectors survived tests generating a record 20,000 pounds of thrust. Some performed equally well or better than welded parts.
Researchers at MIT's d'Arbeloff Laboratory are developing shoulder- and hip-mounted robotic arms to help workers in aircraft manufacturing perform difficult or complex assembly tasks that would normally require two people.
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