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.
A lightweight electric urban concept car designed by several European companies weighs only 992 lb without its battery. It would have weighed 26.7 lb more if its windows were made of glass instead of the specially coated LEXAN polycarbonate resin from SABIC Innovative Plastics.
Skylar Tibbits' team in MIT's Self-Assembly Lab is now 4D printing self-assembling shapes made of programmable carbon composites and custom wood grain. The composites are being used in a sport car airfoil, and the wood grain is beautiful.
The NanoSteel Company has produced high-hardness ferrous metal matrix composite (MMC) parts using a new nanosteel powder in a one-step 3D-printing process. Parts are 99.9% dense, crack-free, and with wear resistance comparable to M2 tool steels.
The company that brought you 3D-printed eyeglasses has launched both an improved clear polymer material for 3D printing optical components and a high-speed, precision, 3D-printing process for making small- and medium-sized batches in a few days.
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