Solar panel frames (1) are getting lighter, and the electrical junction boxes (2) and connectors (3) that carry the electrical current they generate are getting smaller, aided by plastics with low-temperature impact resistance that meet electrical and flame retardancy requirements. (Source: SABIC Innovative Plastics)
A few years ago, I wrote a trend report titled "Smaller, Faster, Better" highlighting not only nano and micro technologies but also a general sizing down across the board. A striking number of experts dismissed it as irrelevant for the American market. I love having articles like this that back up my trend reports with current information. Thank you!
I'd love to see the process 3M and IBM are developing in action. It sounds amazing. It's good to see 3M in new areas.
Some of the most interesting and fun applications I found during reporting this story were the small health monitoring devices. For example, you can see pictures of the Japanese swallowable endoscope in use, both outside and inside the body, here: http://sanfrancisco.ibtimes.com/articles/170187/20110627/japanese-scientists-invent-mermaid-tiny-remote-controlled-pill-camera-examine-digestive-tract.htm and a video of one from the University of Washington here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AlQN3c04mu0
A new compression molding compound material combines the light weight, strength, and rigidity of carbon fibers with the flexibility and lower cost of glass materials in a composite compatible with automotive production.
Plastic bearings are real and millions of them are in use doing heavy-duty jobs we used to think only metals could do. Some of Germany-based igus's bearings are traveling around the world as functional parts in a car to demonstrate what they can do.
Baxter showed off his 2.0-derived moves at ATX West this year. The big red guy still looks pretty much the same, but has some new abilities, mostly due to software. The research robot version is now being used in corporate R&D departments as a design platform.
End-production using 3D printing, including objects made of multiple materials in one pass, is getting closer to reality as we saw on the exhibit floor at the recent Pacific Design & Manufacturing Show.