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.
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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