One of the themes at the Medical Design and Manufacturing West event being held this week in Anaheim, CA is tiny. Medical devices are becoming smaller. That’s putting a lot of pressure on suppliers to provide precise tolerances. One of the interesting examples of the trend is a display from Kyocera showing its capability to achieve dimensional tolerances of ±0.002-inch on powder molded ceramic parts used in electro surgical devices. Kyocera can also achieve ±0.01-inch minimum wall thickness, says Hideki Ohnishi, manager of fine ceramics marketing at Kyocera. Achievement of the precise dimensions is possible because of custom made powder slurries as well as tweaking of the injection molding process, according to Ohnishi. Particular attention is paid to gate locations and venting. Kyocera operates 15 injection molding machines in Japan for the ceramic process. Ohnishi said that Kyocera will be almost doubling capacity due to strong demand for the products. Press sizes are 30 or 60 tons of clamping force. Typical part sizes are half-inch cubes.
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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