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.
Artificially created metamaterials are already appearing in niche applications like electronics, communications, and defense, says a new report from Lux Research. How quickly they become mainstream depends on cost-effective manufacturing methods, which will include additive manufacturing.
SpaceX has 3D printed and successfully hot-fired a SuperDraco engine chamber made of Inconel, a high-performance superalloy, using direct metal laser sintering (DMLS). The company's first 3D-printed rocket engine part, a main oxidizer valve body for the Falcon 9 rocket, launched in January and is now qualified on all Falcon 9 flights.
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and MIT have 3D-printed a new class of metamaterials that are both exceptionally light and have exceptional strength and stiffness. The new metamaterials maintain a nearly constant stiffness per unit of mass density, over three orders of magnitude.
Smart composites that let the material's structural health be monitored automatically and continuously are getting closer to reality. R&D partners in an EU-sponsored project have demonstrated what they say is the first complete, miniaturized, fiber-optic sensor system entirely embedded inside a fiber-reinforced composite.
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