This past June Design News co-sponsored the International Plastics Design Competition held at the National Plastics Exposition in Chicago. One entry stood in stark contrast to the tractor hoods and water-ski bodies usually on display at previous plastic design contests held by the Society of Plastics Industry.
It clearly showed that polymers have entered a brave new world. Membrane Technologies B.V. of the Netherlands showed a hollow fiber membrane, which had been cast with a new sulfonated copolymer from Kraton. Varying sulfonation levels allow ion exchange capacity of 0.4 to 2.0 milli-equivalent per gram. The ion selectivity and unique polymer architecture results in efficient salt rejection. The fibers can be used in a larger water purification or desalinization plant.
The technical complexity of the entry must have baffled the judges, who didn’t even award it some kind of honorable mention among the bevy of announced awards.
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.
If there's one thing 3D printing's good for, it's customization. New Balance Athletic Shoe Company has begun using 3D printing to make customized spike plates for its running shoes made for members of its Team New Balance runners. They provide better traction and shave off a tiny bit of weight.
Two teams, one based in the US and one in Europe, have 3D printed space-worthy support structures for satellite antenna arrays. These aren't prototypes: they're fully functioning antenna supports that will operate while exposed to the harsh temperatures and radiation of outer space.
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