Ford has emerged as a leader in green technologies, particularly in the use of soybeans to produce foam for car seats. Our sister publication Modern Plastics Worldwide reports that Ford now plans to use recycled utility waste as a functional plastics filler. An English company called Rocktron produces glass spheres from fly ash waste from coal-fired power plants. The new compounds may be used to produce parts throughout the car, even under the hood. The hollow alumino-silicate spheres are said to provide a superior hardness and density compared to talc filler and are also described as less expensive than glass spheres made from virgin raw materials.
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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