This is an exciting time to be writing about materials as well as using them. The choices of metals, plastics, coatings, and adhesives have never been broader, and new ones are becoming available at a rapid rate. At the same time, some materials that aren't as new to some manufacturing and assembly processes are being adapted to other production methods, such as 3D printing.
Some of this variety is reflected at the Design and Manufacturing Midwest Show in Chicago, September 10-12. Materials on display there include forged and welded metals and alloys, plastics and elastomers, rubber, coatings and finishes, and adhesives. Others are powder metals, magnetics, polymers used in 3D printing, and ultra-hard materials like sapphire, carbides, and ceramics.
Click on the photo below to view a brief photo gallery:
The design of the single-passenger Personal Transport Vehicle - Ground (PTV-G) by Redbud Technology uses an articulated steering geometry: Because the inclined steering pivot is located behind the driver, the car reacts like a two-wheeled motorcycle. (Source: Redbud Technology)
Several different kinds of assembly technologies are also represented at the show, reflecting the wider variety of manufacturing methods available to today's engineers. These include injection and other types of plastics molding, 3D printing, die casting, and metal injection molding. For example, Dynacast International makes small engineered parts using metal injection molding and die cast processes, employing the company's own proprietary methods for both. Applications for these parts include consumer electronics, healthcare, automotive, hardware, and computers and peripherals.
On the plastics side, there's been a gradual increase for some time across many industries in the use of engineering plastics to design structural and semi-structural parts and systems. DM&M Show exhibitor Geist Plastics, for example, makes custom pipes and other round products, such as those used in irrigation, using extrusion. Some of this increase is due to transportation industries like aerospace and automotive pushing for lighter materials that still meet the performance specs. Other factors include an increase in the use of plastics for healthcare. But some of the change is also simply because there are more materials that can do the job.
Some dramatic uses of plastic for structural parts include the plastic bearings made by show exhibitor igus inc., called iglide, and deployed in a concept car designed by students. Different parts and subsystems of the single-passenger car, called the Personal Transport Vehicle - Ground (PTV-G) are being designed by separate groups of students at various community colleges, universities, and high schools, under the guidance of Redbud Technology. The plastic bearings, donated by igus, are being used in the car's independent rear suspension, as well as in its rear wheel lean-and-tilt mechanisms. Unlike metal parts, the plastic bearings don't need lubrication or maintenance and won't corrode.
You're welcome, kenkad41. The main reason I found the car interesting was the fact that it uses plastic bearings, as well as the fact that it's designed completely differently and for a specific function--commuting.
Thank you Ann for the concept car article. As you know, our STEM program has many problems. STEM seriously needs to use our retired technical professionals as mentors. This is simply not happening and I put the blame directly on instructors in our educational system. There is/are solutions. We need publications such as Design News to help promote special initiative projects nationwide. The projects need to address specific societal needs. Urban commuting transportation is just one example that we are trying to interest students in. This is technology that students can see themselves actually using. I would like to see a national contest on this subject, pitting educational institutions against each other and or states competing against each other. We simply need to find better outlets for our younger generations aspirations. Again, thank you for highlighting the concept vehicle initiative.
Although I've written about engineering plastics in extreme environments such as high-temperature under-hood applications, I was still surprised at igus' plastic bearings being strong enough for use in this concept car.
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.
More and more -- that's what we'll see from plastics and composites in 2015, more types of plastics and more ways they can be used. Two of the fastest-growing uses will be automotive parts, plus medical implants and devices. New types of plastics will include biodegradable materials, plastics that can be easily recycled, and some that do both.
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