A North American manufacturer will be one of the show stoppers at next month’s Fakuma injection molding fair in Friedrichshafen, Germany. Trexel of Woburn, MA, will show how long-fiber reinforced plastics can be used in its microcellular foam process called MuCell. The MuCell process produces lower cost engineering parts with high quality and exceptional dimensional stability in applications where foaming has not historically been deployed. The long fiber technology from Ticona works well for large and complex parts. New parts use an advanced screw design developed jointly by Trexel and Ticona. Hartmut Traut, business director - Europe of Trexel, said several benefits result. “These include potential weight savings of 10 percent, and a 10 to 20 percent cycle time reduction. In addition, customers can get these benefits along with reduced warpage compared to solid injection molding and prior iterations of the MuCell process,” says Traut. One advanced American user of MuCell is fastener maker Soutcho, which uses injection molding machines sized from 55 to 350 tons in clamping force to make MuCell parts.
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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