No one said it would be easy to conduct scientific experiments robotically on Mars. And in fact the Phoenix Mars Lander continues to run into nagging problems. What’s very interesting is how engineers working with scientists on Earth are developing workarounds to solve the problems. It’s engineering at its best, and it reminds me a little of the steps taken on the ill-fated Apollo 13, although the Mars mission is not life-or-death.
In the latest problem, soil dumped on a screen is clumping, and not passing through to analysis equipment, even after vibration. Engineers decided to employ a motorized rasp on the scoop that was actually designed to dig out granite-like ice below the polar surface. Tests show that the scoop, when tilted, does drop fine particles of soil while it is being vibrated by the rasp. Previously, the scoop was just dumped outside down, dumping the soil.
Look for tests in a few days that will chemically analyze the soil.
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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