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.
Artificially created metamaterials are already appearing in niche applications like electronics, communications, and defense, says a new report from Lux Research. How quickly they become mainstream depends on cost-effective manufacturing methods, which will include additive manufacturing.
SpaceX has 3D printed and successfully hot-fired a SuperDraco engine chamber made of Inconel, a high-performance superalloy, using direct metal laser sintering (DMLS). The company's first 3D-printed rocket engine part, a main oxidizer valve body for the Falcon 9 rocket, launched in January and is now qualified on all Falcon 9 flights.
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and MIT have 3D-printed a new class of metamaterials that are both exceptionally light and have exceptional strength and stiffness. The new metamaterials maintain a nearly constant stiffness per unit of mass density, over three orders of magnitude.
Smart composites that let the material's structural health be monitored automatically and continuously are getting closer to reality. R&D partners in an EU-sponsored project have demonstrated what they say is the first complete, miniaturized, fiber-optic sensor system entirely embedded inside a fiber-reinforced composite.
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