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.
An MIT research team has invented what they see as a solution to the need for biodegradable 3D-printable materials made from something besides petroleum-based sources: a water-based robotic additive extrusion method that makes objects from biodegradable hydrogel composites.
Alcoa has unveiled a new manufacturing and materials technology for making aluminum sheet, aimed especially at automotive, industrial, and packaging applications. If all its claims are true, this is a major breakthrough, and may convince more automotive engineers to use aluminum.
NASA has just installed a giant robot to help in its research on composite aerospace materials, like those used for the Orion spacecraft. The agency wants to shave the time it takes to get composites through design, test, and manufacturing stages.
The European Space Agency (ESA) is working with architects Foster + Partners to test the possibility of using lunar regolith, or moon rocks, and 3D printing to make structures for use on the moon. A new video shows some cool animations of a hypothetical lunar mission that carries out this vision.
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