Engineers made several errors that resulted in the Big Dig tunnel collapse two years ago. That conclusion Is not mine; it comes from Myer Ezrin, a longtime polymer failure analysis expert who studied the materials in the public docket of the investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board. “The message still hasn’t adequately penetrated enough that when engineers are dealing with new materials, they should use caution with the sources that they rely on,” says Myer Ezrin, a failure analysis expert and former researcher at the University of Connecticut’s Institute of Material Science. “Engineers working with material they have little or no experience with—particularly if it is a life and death matter as it was in the Big Dig—have to investigate the choices and then confirm that investigation.”
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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