Companies such as Delphi and GM have emerged from bankruptcy, but considerable distress remains in the injection molding supply chain for automotive and other industries. A complete plastic injection molding machine operation in Los Fresnos, TX goes on the auction block tomorrow, for example. injection molders in the USA are barely budging 50 percent of capacity - and that’s with a much reduced machine base. Used molding equipment is selling for 50 to 70 percent below 12 months ago.
It’s a two-edged sword for design engineers who specify molded parts. There are bargains galore out there because business remains slow and machine costs have declined. On the other hand, there is a smaller supply base to provide parts when demand improves. Suppliers will be slow to invest in new capacity in the early stages of the recovery.
This is a good time to stick with blue-chip suppliers. Pass on the quick bargains.
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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