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.
A self-propelled robot developed by a team of researchers headed by MIT promises to detect leaks quickly and accurately in gas pipelines, eliminating the likelihood of dangerous explosions. The robot may also be useful in water and petroleum pipe leak detection.
Aerojet Rocketdyne has built and successfully hot-fire tested an entire 3D-printed rocket engine. In other news, NASA's 3D-printed rocket engine injectors survived tests generating a record 20,000 pounds of thrust. Some performed equally well or better than welded parts.
Researchers at MIT's d'Arbeloff Laboratory are developing shoulder- and hip-mounted robotic arms to help workers in aircraft manufacturing perform difficult or complex assembly tasks that would normally require two people.
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