Nylon producers are looking for their next Holy Grail. Most of the world’s global nylon goes into fiber, where polyester is gaining favor. Also weak is the auto market, a major outlet for engineering grades of nylon. Pundits say operating rates for nylon output could be as low as 80 percent for the next four years. Development of injection moldable nylon air intake manifolds gave nylon an enormous boost in the 1990s-to say nothing of the benefit in auto design. In 1960, the average car used just 0.4 pound of nylon. Most applications were noncritical, such as valve stems or bushings. By 2000, the average car used 11 pounds of nylon.
GM’s 3800 Series II V-6 engine in 1995 featured the first thermoplastic oil pan gasket with an integrated windage tray molded of nylon 66. In 2008, Daimler introduced the first production oil pan module made from nylon. Both DuPont and BASF have developed special optimized grades that could boost use of nylon for oil pans. The big issue was punishment from flying highway stones. New U.S. fuel guidelines may be just the impetus needed to get the momentum really moving for nylon. In the today’s stimulus parlance, this technology is shovel ready.
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.