There are many signs of a dramatic improvement in business at K2010, a plastics trade fair under way this week in Düsseldorf, Germany.
Victrex of Lancashire, United Kingdom, reported a 56 percent boost in shipments in its fiscal year ending Sept. 30 compared to the previous fiscal year. “Business has come back just as fast as it declined in 2008-2009,” said Andrew Storm, commercial director of Victrex Polymer Solutions. Victrex shipped 2,600 tons in the 2008 fiscal year, 1,600 tons in 2009, and 2,500 tons in 2010. He says the improvement in shipments derive largely from the improving economy. Engel, a major producer of injection molding machines, reported that machines sales are 60 percent above last year’s level.
Exports of plastics products from the United States increased 33 percent in the first seven months of 2010 compared to the same period in 2009. “In the first two quarters of 2010, we are almost back to 2008 levels,” said William R. Carteaux, CEO of the Society of the Plastics Industry, at a press conference at the show.
The 100% solar-powered airplane Solar Impulse 2 is prepping for its upcoming flight, becoming the first plane to fly around the world without using fuel. It's able to do so because of above-average performance by all of the technologies that go into it, especially materials.
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.
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