Technologies once only found in the realm of science fiction are now a reality. Inspired by comic-book hero, Wolverine, a team of scientists has developed the first ionic conductor: a material which allows ions to flow through which is also self-healing, physically elastic and transparent. There are many potential uses, including self-healing robots, artificial muscles, improved batteries and biosensors and even transparent loudspeakers.
“Creating a material with all these properties has been a puzzle for years,” said Chao Wang, an adjunct assistant professor of chemistry at University of California, Riverside, who is one of the authors of the paper. “We did that and now are just beginning to explore the applications.”
It’s possible to change most of metal’s properties through heat. Electrical conductivity, magnetic charge, and even the physical structure of metal itself can be altered by controlled heating and cooling. This allows metal to be tailored to diverse, specific industry uses. Examples include heating metals to increase their electrical resistance, heating and cooling alloys in specific ways to increase or decrease the hardness, and bringing magnetic metals to the Curie temperature to eradicate their magnetism. Heat treatments fall into four separate categories: Annealing to soften metals and increase conductivity; Normalizing to create uniform composition; Hardening to improve durability; and Tempering to reduce the brittleness caused by hardening.
3D printing and Additive Manufacturing (AM) will benefit from finer-tuned, higher-quality parts in 2017, thanks to increased efforts to define standards and guidelines combined with advancements in the plastics and metals used for fabrication.
A 3D-printed fuel intake runner fabricated from Solvay’s KetaSpire PEEK instead of the typical aluminum uses 10% glass fill. Source: Solvay
On the standards front, Senvol is has started to maintain and offer the public a database of indexes for AM material characterization which is supplier-independent. This will eliminate the need for smaller manufacturers to duplicate existing research of materials conducted by other industries and make it easier for companies to enter AM production.
Metals printer and printing material sales are increasing at a robust rate as the production of end-production parts grows. Alcoa is among the manufacturers who have increased capacity to produce powdered metals for 3D printing at their tech center in Pittsburgh, PA. Carnegie Mellon’s NextManufacturing Center for Additive Manufacturing is now employing synchrotron-based x-ray microtomography to better inspect and improve 3d printed titanium components.
The most used materials for AM in 2015 were photopolymers and photoplastics, but this number is declining as ceramics, metals and other materials increase in popularity. Evonik and BASF are leveraging HP’s Open Platform program, to create new 3D printed parts and products, while Solvay is developing polymer-based materials to replace metal parts.