Bridge and other infrastructure failures have been generating significant headlines in the United States. The German state Hesse has a new idea: plastic composite bridges. Europe’s’ first road bridge made of fiber-reinforced thermoset polymer opened recently, spanning a federal highway north of Frankfurt. The initial cost of the materials is higher, but there are long-term maintenance benefits. The pultruded polymer structure is also less than one-fourth the weight of a pre-stressed concrete superstructure. It’s not a giant bridge – just 89 feet long by 16 feet wide. It weighs 80 metric tons.
Some big problems had to solved, including adhesive bonding of the sections and testing. Materials being evaluated for bridge construction include glass and carbon fibers and matrix polymers of vinyl ester, epoxy and polyester. Officials say the new German bridge, located in the town of Friedberg, is expected to last 50 years without repairs. The bridge is made of FRP polymer glued to steel sections. The bridge was prefabricated and assembled on site in one day.
How 3D printing fits into the digital thread, and the relationship between its uses for prototyping and for manufacturing, was the subject of a talk by Proto Labs' Rich Baker at last week's Design & Manufacturing Minneapolis.
How can automakers, aerospace contractors, and other OEMs get new metal alloys that are stronger, harder, and can survive ever higher temperatures? One way is to redesign their crystalline structures at the nanoscale and microscale.
Although a lot of the excitement about 3D printing and additive manufacturing surrounds its ability to make end-products and functional prototypes, some often ignored applications are the big improvements that can come by using it for tooling, jigs, and fixtures.
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