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 new compression molding compound material combines the light weight, strength, and rigidity of carbon fibers with the flexibility and lower cost of glass materials in a composite compatible with automotive production.
Plastic bearings are real and millions of them are in use doing heavy-duty jobs we used to think only metals could do. Some of Germany-based igus's bearings are traveling around the world as functional parts in a car to demonstrate what they can do.
Baxter showed off his 2.0-derived moves at ATX West this year. The big red guy still looks pretty much the same, but has some new abilities, mostly due to software. The research robot version is now being used in corporate R&D departments as a design platform.
End-production using 3D printing, including objects made of multiple materials in one pass, is getting closer to reality as we saw on the exhibit floor at the recent Pacific Design & Manufacturing Show.