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.
Researchers at MIT's d'Arbeloff Laboratory are developing shoulder- and hip-mounted robotic arms to help workers in aircraft manufacturing perform difficult or complex assembly tasks that would normally require two people.
Structural engineers have developed a design method for 3D printing structural steel elements to be used in construction projects. Complex, individually designed pieces can be created far more efficiently, and costs and waste will be reduced.
Some of the latest nautical robots take a variety of forms. They can look like small boats, tiny four-wheeled vehicles, or realistic fish. One design from Sandia Labs will be able to transform itself from a swimming robot to one that flies through the air or uses wheels on land.
MadeSolid is offering a 3D-printable casting resin for making small metal parts for things like jewelry. It costs a lot less than previous alternatives and can be used with multiple consumer-grade printers -- an industry first.
SABIC and Kringlan Composites are developing a thermoplastic carbon composite wheel with a matrix based on SABIC's ULTEM resin. Kringlan says its process is geared toward high volumes, short cycle times, and in-house recycling of production waste and end-of-life materials.
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