Increasingly novel materials applications are emerging to provide lightweight thermal management functions in aircraft (such as the Boeing Dreamliner) and oher applications. One example is a metal matrix composite developed by a company called CPS Technologies in Norton, MA. In a typical component, a silicon carbide structure is formed in a plunger-type, low-pressure injection molding machine that uses a carrier feedstock that freezes near zero C. The carrier is removed by a phase management sublimation in which the carrier never becomes a liquid. The product can then either be sintered or infiltrated with material such as aluminum.
CPS says that AlSiC produces hermetic packaging that is much lighter than CuMo and CuW, yet has similar thermal conductivity and expansion coefficient. It also costs less.
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.