The Seattle, WA, area is rapidly emerging as a global center for carbon composites technology. The ball got rolling with the development of the composite-bodied Dreamliner 787 by Boeing. Toray Composites (America), Boeing’s primary carbon fiber supplier, has been adding capacity in Tacoma, WA, and now operates four prepreg lines there.
Italian automobile manufacturer Lamborghini has identified carbon composites as a core development area and is investigating new technologies in collaboration with the University of Washington and the Boeing Research and Technology Center in Seattle.
BMW wants to be the first to introduce large-scale use of carbon composites in cars and established SGL Automotive Carbon Fibers, a joint venture with the SGL Group. The JV is building a plant in Moses Lake, WA, to produce carbon fiber. The plant will operate two lines, each with annual capacity of 1,500 metric tons. The first line is expected to be commissioned late next year. This is despite the fact that the car is being designed and assembled in Germany.
Hats off to Boeing for making the USA a global center for this pivotal new materials’ technology.
As the 3D printing and overall additive manufacturing ecosystem grows, standards and guidelines from standards bodies and government organizations are increasing. Multiple players with multiple needs are also driving the role of 3DP and AM as enabling technologies for distributed manufacturing.
A growing though not-so-obvious role for 3D printing, 4D printing, and overall additive manufacturing is their use in fabricating new materials and enabling new or improved manufacturing and assembly processes. Individual engineers, OEMs, university labs, and others are reinventing the technology to suit their own needs.
For vehicles to meet the 2025 Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, three things must happen: customers must look beyond the data sheet and engage materials supplier earlier, and new integrated multi-materials are needed to make step-change improvements.
3D printing, 4D printing, and various types of additive manufacturing (AM) will get even bigger in 2015. We're not talking about consumer use, which gets most of the attention, but processes and technologies that will affect how design engineers design products and how manufacturing engineers make them. For now, the biggest industries are still aerospace and medical, while automotive and architecture continue to grow.
More and more -- that's what we'll see from plastics and composites in 2015, more types of plastics and more ways they can be used. Two of the fastest-growing uses will be automotive parts, plus medical implants and devices. New types of plastics will include biodegradable materials, plastics that can be easily recycled, and some that do both.
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