1. Oil soared to $147 a barrel in July and then plunged to less than $40 at the end of the year, affecting prices of plastics and other hydrocarbon-based chemicals.
2. The financial crisis coupled with declining sales walloped materials and assembly companies across the board, with the automotive supply chain particularly affected.
3. Fastener problems continued to plague the Dreamliner. Poorly worded engineering specifications forced Boeing to replace as many as 8,000 fasteners on 12 Dreamliners being assembled.
4. American companies continued to divest plastics and chemical assets due to poor profitability. One of the biggest deals, a partnership between Dow and Kuwait, unwound at the end of 2008.
5. Growth (albeit slow) of green materials design. A handful of American engineers embraced green materials, led by an aggressive Herman Miller program. Notably absent from the green engineering revolution have been the Big Three.
6. Strong demand from China put pressure on stainless and other metals prices. In the second half, of 2008, metals’ prices crashed.
7. Carbon fiber emerged as a more serious engineering material, driven in part by a military requirement for lighter weight and greater strength,
8. Crash-resistant, structural adhesives emerged as an important tool for automotive weight reduction.
9. Innovative materials solutions made possible one of America’s more successful science explorations in space.
10. American manufacturers continued to adapt with innovative new designs.
NASA and Boeing developed a huge, carbon composite cryogenic fuel tank for deep space missions, and started testing it last month. The 18-ft cryotank will enable heavy-lift launch vehicles to send both humans and robots into deep space.
German engineering firm EDAG Group showed a single-piece, 3D-printed car body design inspired by a turtle at the Geneva Motor Show. It came about after an assessment of how additive manufacturing could be applied to making industrial components, modules, and complete vehicle bodies.
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