Weight reduction in cars and other applications is driving use of innovative technologies such as glass microspheres in plastic compounds. Noble Polymers, a compounding business of Cascade Engineering, has developed a low-density polyolefin formulation using 3M glass bubbles that reduces the weight of TPO plastic parts up to 20 percent. A part on display at the 3M booth at this week’s National Plastics Exposition in Chicago incorporates glass bubbles (10 percent loading) to reduce weight of a seat frame from 2.25 pounds to 2.05 pounds. The glass bubbles replaced talc, and weight reduction wasn’t the only benefit. “We increased the flow of the compound by using specialty additives with the glass microspheres,” says Tim Patterson, business unit manager of Noble Polymers, Grand Rapids. MI. As a result, the mold cavity filled better for the complex design. The glass bubbles improve dimensional stability, reduce density and cut back on warpage, according to Louis J. Lundberg, business manager for transportation markets for the 3M Energy and Advanced Materials Division, St. Paul, MN. 3M announced a new line that has isostatic crush strength of 30,000 psi, expanding applications in several engineering plastics. These microspheres are 40 percent stronger than 3M’s previous leading high-strength glass microspheres and, at 17 microns, are approximately half their size. 3M Performance Additive iM30K has a density of 0.6 g/cc.
The 100% solar-powered airplane Solar Impulse 2 is prepping for its upcoming flight, becoming the first plane to fly around the world without using fuel. It's able to do so because of above-average performance by all of the technologies that go into it, especially materials.
As the 3D printing and overall additive manufacturing ecosystem grows, standards and guidelines from standards bodies and government organizations are increasing. Multiple players with multiple needs are also driving the role of 3DP and AM as enabling technologies for distributed manufacturing.
A growing though not-so-obvious role for 3D printing, 4D printing, and overall additive manufacturing is their use in fabricating new materials and enabling new or improved manufacturing and assembly processes. Individual engineers, OEMs, university labs, and others are reinventing the technology to suit their own needs.
For vehicles to meet the 2025 Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, three things must happen: customers must look beyond the data sheet and engage materials supplier earlier, and new integrated multi-materials are needed to make step-change improvements.
3D printing, 4D printing, and various types of additive manufacturing (AM) will get even bigger in 2015. We're not talking about consumer use, which gets most of the attention, but processes and technologies that will affect how design engineers design products and how manufacturing engineers make them. For now, the biggest industries are still aerospace and medical, while automotive and architecture continue to grow.
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