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.
How 3D printing fits into the digital thread, and the relationship between its uses for prototyping and for manufacturing, was the subject of a talk by Proto Labs' Rich Baker at last week's Design & Manufacturing Minneapolis.
How can automakers, aerospace contractors, and other OEMs get new metal alloys that are stronger, harder, and can survive ever higher temperatures? One way is to redesign their crystalline structures at the nanoscale and microscale.
Although a lot of the excitement about 3D printing and additive manufacturing surrounds its ability to make end-products and functional prototypes, some often ignored applications are the big improvements that can come by using it for tooling, jigs, and fixtures.
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