I’ve heard of several new plastics that make excellent metal replacements. But concrete? That’s a first for me. A hydrogen-rich polymer loaded with boron actually can replace concrete as neutron-shielding material in nuclear power plants or nuclear submarines. The new Quadrant EPP material is currently available in machinable 1-inch x 48-inch x 96-inch plates. Borotron HD050 is a high-density polyethylene (HDPE) enhanced with 5 percent elemental boron to provide extra shielding against neutron radiation. The combination of boron within a matrix of HDPE, a naturally hydrogen-rich material, targets nuclear shielding applications. Hydrogen-rich materials attenuate neutrons extremely well and boron has an affinity for absorbing thermalized neutrons. Potential uses include shielding for radiation therapy rooms, where the product in plate form is integrated into the wall structure. Other application areas include nuclear research centers, nuclear power plants, power generation areas in nuclear submarines, production areas for nuclear detection devices and the equipment itself, and spacecraft exposed to radiation. Borotron HD050 plate is lighter than some other neutron shielding materials such as concrete, and easier to work with in construction than other options including water. The formulation was engineered by Quadrant Engineering Plastic Products (Quadrant EPP).
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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