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.
Artificially created metamaterials are already appearing in niche applications like electronics, communications, and defense, says a new report from Lux Research. How quickly they become mainstream depends on cost-effective manufacturing methods, which will include additive manufacturing.
SpaceX has 3D printed and successfully hot-fired a SuperDraco engine chamber made of Inconel, a high-performance superalloy, using direct metal laser sintering (DMLS). The company's first 3D-printed rocket engine part, a main oxidizer valve body for the Falcon 9 rocket, launched in January and is now qualified on all Falcon 9 flights.
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and MIT have 3D-printed a new class of metamaterials that are both exceptionally light and have exceptional strength and stiffness. The new metamaterials maintain a nearly constant stiffness per unit of mass density, over three orders of magnitude.
Smart composites that let the material's structural health be monitored automatically and continuously are getting closer to reality. R&D partners in an EU-sponsored project have demonstrated what they say is the first complete, miniaturized, fiber-optic sensor system entirely embedded inside a fiber-reinforced composite.
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