An interesting design innovation at K 2010 is an electrically conductive plastic compound from A. Schulman being used by a Finnish lighting manufacturer. Copper and tin are loaded at a very high level (60 and 25 percent respectively) in nylon 6. The tin acts like a solder connecting the copper fibers. “The conductivity of the compound is 1,000 times better than the next most conductive plastic compound available (plastic loaded with steel fibers),” says Thilo Stier, innovation manager for A. Schulman. The first production part is a light made by Hella.
The production process for the light is a great story. First, the ABS plate and the PMMA (acrylic) reflector are injection molded in a three-component process. The electrical resistor, diodes, LED and contact pins for the plug are inserted and connected with the new conductive compound, which is called Schulatec TinCo 50. The ABS-coated reflector is then mounted to ensure watertight encapsulation.
Stier says the material is good for housings and lighting applications.
How 3D printing fits into the digital thread, and the relationship between its uses for prototyping and for manufacturing, was the subject of a talk by Proto Labs' Rich Baker at last week's Design & Manufacturing Minneapolis.
How can automakers, aerospace contractors, and other OEMs get new metal alloys that are stronger, harder, and can survive ever higher temperatures? One way is to redesign their crystalline structures at the nanoscale and microscale.
Although a lot of the excitement about 3D printing and additive manufacturing surrounds its ability to make end-products and functional prototypes, some often ignored applications are the big improvements that can come by using it for tooling, jigs, and fixtures.
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