Like it or not, design engineers need to get prepared for more environmentally oriented requirements. The newest evidence is an executive order from President George W. Bush that ramps by green requirements for the federal government. One of the six parts of the new order requires federal agencies to improve energy efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions 3% annually through the end of fiscal year 2015. President Bush also wants agency acquisitions to reflect sustainable environmental practices, including acquisition of biobased, environmentally preferable, energy-efficient, water-efficient, and recycled-content products, and use of paper of at least 30% post-consumer fiber content. The requirement on bio-based materials is interesting. Design News plans to look intensively at the potential of bio-based polymers for engineering applications in the April 30 issue. Stay tuned.
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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