The US Patent office yesterday granted Apple Computer a patent for a process called double back injection molding used to make electronic housings. The process allows the distinctive glowing border effect in Microsoft's Zune player . The process allows creation of two different color effects as well as improved structural characteristics of the border wall. it avoids expensive and complicated action in tools. Apple uses double shot injection molding for both iPods and iMac desktop computers, which have a clear shell over a black or white layer. “The two shot injection process allows for a thinner walled enclosure that uses less materials and allows for added structural features that would not be possible using traditional molding techniques,” according to the patent summary. It was not clear, but seemed apparent, that Microsoft may have to pay a licensing fee to continue use of the process. One blogger stated, without documentation, that Apple was stealing Microsoft’s idea. Apple was not available for comment.
As the 3D printing and overall additive manufacturing ecosystem grows, standards and guidelines from standards bodies and government organizations are increasing. Multiple players with multiple needs are also driving the role of 3DP and AM as enabling technologies for distributed manufacturing.
A growing though not-so-obvious role for 3D printing, 4D printing, and overall additive manufacturing is their use in fabricating new materials and enabling new or improved manufacturing and assembly processes. Individual engineers, OEMs, university labs, and others are reinventing the technology to suit their own needs.
For vehicles to meet the 2025 Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, three things must happen: customers must look beyond the data sheet and engage materials supplier earlier, and new integrated multi-materials are needed to make step-change improvements.
3D printing, 4D printing, and various types of additive manufacturing (AM) will get even bigger in 2015. We're not talking about consumer use, which gets most of the attention, but processes and technologies that will affect how design engineers design products and how manufacturing engineers make them. For now, the biggest industries are still aerospace and medical, while automotive and architecture continue to grow.
More and more -- that's what we'll see from plastics and composites in 2015, more types of plastics and more ways they can be used. Two of the fastest-growing uses will be automotive parts, plus medical implants and devices. New types of plastics will include biodegradable materials, plastics that can be easily recycled, and some that do both.
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