There are no revolutions under way in the world of engineering plastics. New materials today target very specific problems. One interesting set of materials from BASF helps to better insulate houses, as shown in a demonstration project in England. Michael Guibault, a marketing manager for BASF’s construction polymers business in North America, says architects can now design buildings that have the energy-efficiency advantages that previously only came with thicker, traditional materials. Here’s how it works: Plastic capsules are filled with a wax that absorbs and then releases energy by melting and solidifying. When used in an astronaut’s spacesuit, a soldier’s uniform, or within an interior plaster or plasterboard wall, the capsules boost the thermal capacity of the material and reduce temperature swings. "Manufacturers of interior building materials can utilize BASF’s Micronal phase-change microcapsules to create new product categories that can give them a competitive advantage," says Guibault.
A new compression molding compound material combines the light weight, strength, and rigidity of carbon fibers with the flexibility and lower cost of glass materials in a composite compatible with automotive production.
Plastic bearings are real and millions of them are in use doing heavy-duty jobs we used to think only metals could do. Some of Germany-based igus's bearings are traveling around the world as functional parts in a car to demonstrate what they can do.
Baxter showed off his 2.0-derived moves at ATX West this year. The big red guy still looks pretty much the same, but has some new abilities, mostly due to software. The research robot version is now being used in corporate R&D departments as a design platform.
End-production using 3D printing, including objects made of multiple materials in one pass, is getting closer to reality as we saw on the exhibit floor at the recent Pacific Design & Manufacturing Show.