Here’s a switch on the whole global outsourcing trend: a Canadian custom compounder called JER Envirotech is closing compounding capacity in Malaysia and the Philippines and moving the equipment to Greenville, SC. CEO Ed Trueman told Design News in an interview that development of infrastructure at the Asian sites was difficult, and the company needs a rapid ramp-up in capacity to meet skyrocketing demand for its new wood-plastic biocomposite that is already being molded for application in toys and car trim. One compounding line will open in South Carolina by the end of the year to supplement three lines already operating in Delta, British Columbia. JER expects to add capacity in South Carolina in 2009. One hot new market is biocomposite sheet that is replacing plywood for chicken coops made by a Pennsylvania company. The JER product contains no toxic chemicals (unlike plywood) and may find a huge market in the construction industry. Other types of wood composites are already used for decking and some other building applications. JER uses a new, proprietary formula that started with a material patented by the National Research Council of Canada.
Artificially created metamaterials are already appearing in niche applications like electronics, communications, and defense, says a new report from Lux Research. How quickly they become mainstream depends on cost-effective manufacturing methods, which will include additive manufacturing.
SpaceX has 3D printed and successfully hot-fired a SuperDraco engine chamber made of Inconel, a high-performance superalloy, using direct metal laser sintering (DMLS). The company's first 3D-printed rocket engine part, a main oxidizer valve body for the Falcon 9 rocket, launched in January and is now qualified on all Falcon 9 flights.
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and MIT have 3D-printed a new class of metamaterials that are both exceptionally light and have exceptional strength and stiffness. The new metamaterials maintain a nearly constant stiffness per unit of mass density, over three orders of magnitude.
Smart composites that let the material's structural health be monitored automatically and continuously are getting closer to reality. R&D partners in an EU-sponsored project have demonstrated what they say is the first complete, miniaturized, fiber-optic sensor system entirely embedded inside a fiber-reinforced composite.
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