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.
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.