Polycarbonate, one of the fastest-growing engineering polymers in recent years, looks like it’s in for some hard times. On one side, the clear thermoplastic is getting battered by concerns over adverse health effects of biphenyl A (a key constituent) and on the other by declining sales of CDs and DVDs.New clarified polypropylenes are replacing PCs used in food and beverage containers. The economics favoring polyolefins is also changing. The price differential between the two polymers, already substantial, is likely to widen further as massive new PP supplies come on one. PC is easily twice as expensive as PP right now.
Meanwhile, one of the giant markets for PC is under siege. Since the introduction of the MP3, sales of CDs have dropped in seven out of the last eight years. Large label CD sales dropped 20% in 2008. The outlook is grim as it becomes apparent that movies and other content will be increasingly delivered over the Internet.
That’s why you see so many concept cars (like the first Chevy Volt) featuring polycarbonate roofs. Automotive glazing has been the Holy Grail for PC for at least five years. But that won’t be coming anytime soon because of concerns over performance issues.
What does all this mean for mechanical engineers? Look for major producers (such as Sabic IP, Bayer, Dow or Mitsubishi) to show more interest on working with you to develop new applications. Key candidates are components requiring clarity, stiffness, temperature resistance and impact resistance.
The 100-percent solar-powered Solar Impulse plane flies on a piloted, cross-country flight this summer over the US as a prelude to the longer, round-the-world flight by its successor aircraft planned for 2015.
GE Aviation expects to chop off about 25 percent of the total 3D printing time of metallic production components for its LEAP Turbofan engine, using in-process inspection. That's pretty amazing, considering how slow additive manufacturing (AM) build times usually are.
For industrial control applications, or even a simple assembly line, that machine can go almost 24/7 without a break. But what happens when the task is a little more complex? That’s where the “smart” machine would come in. The smart machine is one that has some simple (or complex in some cases) processing capability to be able to adapt to changing conditions. Such machines are suited for a host of applications, including automotive, aerospace, defense, medical, computers and electronics, telecommunications, consumer goods, and so on. This radio show will show what’s possible with smart machines, and what tradeoffs need to be made to implement such a solution.