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.
At the JEC Europe 2015 composites show in Paris last month, makers of composite materials, software, and process equipment showed off their latest innovations. This year's show saw some announcements related to automotive applications, but many of the improvements came in the world of aerospace.
The DuPont-sponsored Plastics Industry Trends survey shows engineers want improved performance in a broad range of plastics and better recycling technology. These concerns top even processing enhancements that improve productivity.
Plastics leader SABIC recently announced a global initiative to help its customers take advantage of additive manufacturing (AM) and also advance 3D printing (3DP) technologies in several application areas. The company's plans go way beyond materials, and also include design, processing, and part performance.
A theme that was reflected in several ways at NPE 2015 was the use of 3D printing to assist in, or improve on, injection molding, as well as improvements in 3D printing materials and processes that are making better functional prototypes and end-use parts.
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