Look for intense collaborative research efforts over the next 10 years to improve additive manufacturing technologies for use in high-tech aerospace applications. The cost of aerospace components is boosted dramatically due to the amount of material beyond the finished geometry that must be removed during manufacturing-often 90 percent or more, according to Chris English, an engineer with GE Aviation. As a result there is increased interest in the potential to use additive manufacturing technologies that were originally developed for rapid prototyping applications.
One example is a project at the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Researchers there are looking at the potential to produce net shape low-density cellular metal structures from layer-based additive manufacturing of metal-oxide ceramic slurry followed by post-processing in a reducing atmosphere. A ceramic suspension would be direct printed in a research investigation. Many issues remain, however, with existing additive manufacturing systems including materials available, poor surface finish, difficulties in removing support systems, and inability to make large parts.
A new compression molding compound material combines the light weight, strength, and rigidity of carbon fibers with the flexibility and lower cost of glass materials in a composite compatible with automotive production.
Plastic bearings are real and millions of them are in use doing heavy-duty jobs we used to think only metals could do. Some of Germany-based igus's bearings are traveling around the world as functional parts in a car to demonstrate what they can do.
Baxter showed off his 2.0-derived moves at ATX West this year. The big red guy still looks pretty much the same, but has some new abilities, mostly due to software. The research robot version is now being used in corporate R&D departments as a design platform.
End-production using 3D printing, including objects made of multiple materials in one pass, is getting closer to reality as we saw on the exhibit floor at the recent Pacific Design & Manufacturing Show.