Plastics prices are soaring right now with a renewed conviction. Until recent years, plastics producers have been more focused on market share than margins. They paid a steep price for that approach, and some big names such as GE, have exited the business. Many are determined to recover every penny of the new, higher costs for hydrocarbons. Huntsman and PolyOne, for example, issued announcements they will hike prices up to 25 and 20 percent, respectively. Interestingly, many suppliers also want to end arrangements that protected big customers. In such cases, price hikes often were delayed for a quarter or longer. Look for companies like Dow Chemical to try to end those practices. Dow’s feedstock and energy bill for the first three months of 2008 was 42 percent higher than the year-earlier quarter.
The 100% solar-powered airplane Solar Impulse 2 is prepping for its upcoming flight, becoming the first plane to fly around the world without using fuel. It's able to do so because of above-average performance by all of the technologies that go into it, especially materials.
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.
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