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.
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.