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.
An in-depth survey of 700 current and future users of 3D printing holds few surprises, but results emphasize some major trends already in progress. Two standouts are the big growth in end-use parts and metal additive manufacturing (AM) most respondents expect.
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