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 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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