The Mars Phoenix Lander has now gone where two predecessors failed to go. The Mars Climate Orbiter spacecraft crashed into the Red Planet in 1999 because of a navigation error when “English” and metric units were confused. The Mars Polar Lander (MPL), was lost near the planet’s South Pole not long after that. As we reported here, the Mars. Phoenix Lander uses technology from the MPL, cutting its cost dramatically. The Phoenix landed Sunday night, with solar panels and a camera deploying just as planned. The first photos show a landscape that looks like a red paved parking lot.
We’re learning already. There is a close-up view of polygon-shaped formations (previously seen from space). Expansion and contraction of ice are believed to cause the shapes, something like the cracks that form in asphalt driveways over the winter. And that’s a great sign because it means the Lander may be close to ice crystals that may hold the clues to previous life. Next step: The specially developed shovel begins digging—chopping soil that can be tested in the on-board labs.
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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