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.
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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