Rising demand and a nickel miners’ strike are combining to boost costs for stainless steel for design engineers. There is no indication, however, that supply conditions will deteriorate anytime soon to the level seen in 2007 when design engineers were forced to seek substitutes.
Nickel prices were up 46 percent in April, and have risen a bit since. A strike at Vale’s Sudbury operations in Ontario has cut operations to 50 percent of capacity. The strike only reduces global capacity by 5 percent, but rising demand makes it a factor.
Recovery in the stainless steel market began in the second half of 2009. The International Stainless Steel Forum (ISSF) in Brussels is predicting an 11 to 12 percent increase in stainless steel production this year.
Alcoa has unveiled a new manufacturing and materials technology for making aluminum sheet, aimed especially at automotive, industrial, and packaging applications. If all its claims are true, this is a major breakthrough, and may convince more automotive engineers to use aluminum.
NASA has just installed a giant robot to help in its research on composite aerospace materials, like those used for the Orion spacecraft. The agency wants to shave the time it takes to get composites through design, test, and manufacturing stages.
The European Space Agency (ESA) is working with architects Foster + Partners to test the possibility of using lunar regolith, or moon rocks, and 3D printing to make structures for use on the moon. A new video shows some cool animations of a hypothetical lunar mission that carries out this vision.
If there's one thing 3D printing's good for, it's customization. New Balance Athletic Shoe Company has begun using 3D printing to make customized spike plates for its running shoes made for members of its Team New Balance runners. They provide better traction and shave off a tiny bit of weight.
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