Design engineers surely will feel some heat from the current financial liquidity crisis, even assuming the proposed bailout plan is enacted and has a positive effect. It will be hard, particularly in the short-term, for companies to raise capital. All companies are affected, but the hardest hit will be small, entrepreneurial firms that are burning cash. One area of concern could be the fledgling companies that are attempting to build a bioplastic industry in the United States. The Chief Operating Officer at Cereplast, a bioplastic startup in California, announced a decision to concentrate all manufacturing at a plant n Seymour, IN and focus sales activities on a smaller, targeted group of prospects. The move comes as Cereplast prepares for the second phase of a previously announced joint development agreements with Danone and Peugeot-Citroen. Big companies will also feel at least some pain. GE announced it will take on less debt in the fourth quarter to improve its financial liquidity. Less debt means less spending. Will that mean some slowdown in development of its aggressive wind energy program? We don’t know right now. GM is putting significant financial muscle into Chevy Volt even though its cash position is weak. GM is looking for federal help, possibly in the form of tax benefits, to ease purchasing of the Volt.
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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