It’s amazing to consider the long-term potential of carbon nanotubes as a polymer reinforcement if major issues (cost and health concerns) can be overcome. Research reveals the possibility of cross-linking CNT molecules prior to incorporation in a polymer matrix to form a super composite with a tensile strength of 20 million psi. Single-walled nanotubes exhibit unique electric properties and may be used for miniaturizing electronics beyond the micro electromechanical scale. Big producers are placing major bets on the technology. In Japan, Showa Denko is building a 400 million metric tons per year production plant. In Germany, Bayer is building a 200 million metric tons per year plant. They’re betting they can dramatically reduce the cost of CNTs which had been in the stratosphere as a pilot scale product, say $40,000 per pound. Multiwall nanotubes are down to $50 to $70 per pound now. Prices will drop as new plants come on line. Health issues must also be addressed.
An in-depth survey of 700 current and future users of 3D printing holds few surprises, but results emphasize some major trends already in progress. Two standouts are the big growth in end-use parts and metal additive manufacturing (AM) most respondents expect.
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