SPE Industry Update
Jan. 14, 2015

Local Motors to Produce 1st 3-D-Printed Automobile Fleet
By Ryan Clark
The auto industry is set to experience another ripple of change as tech company Local Motors recently announced its plans to open a microfactory in the Washington, D.C., area to design, produce and sell the world's first 3-D-printed automobile fleet. In an industry just learning to accommodate Tesla, Local Motors seems ready and willing to push even more buttons.More

3-D Printing Biocomposites
SPE Plastics Research Online
Three-dimensional printing was initially developed as a means to prototype new products and shorten the product design cycle. Today, 3-D printing is routinely employed in practically every college and university for product prototypes. It is becoming mainstream, with revenues amounting to slightly more than $2 billion, of which half is derived from prototyping and design services.More

Crack-Fiber Interaction in Fiber-Reinforced Composites
SPE Plastics Research Online
Fiber-reinforced composites are widely used in many engineering structural fields due to their high strength-density ratio, high stiffness-density ratio, good corrosion resistance and long fatigue life. Adding fibers usually confers multiple benefits on matrix polymers, such as higher modulus and tensile strength, better dimensional stability after processing and enhanced fatigue resistance. In fiber-reinforced composites, the tip of a crack in the matrix may partially penetrate a fiber bundle.More

Chemists Work Up New Formulas for Greener Plastic
National Science Foundation via Phys.org
Plastics are a miracle of modern science and are now fundamental to our everyday lives. Of course, they are also a constant reminder of our throwaway society. With support from the National Science Foundation, chemist Marc Hillmyer of the University of Minnesota and a team at the Center for Sustainable Polymers are dedicating their research to transforming the way plastics, or "polymers," are made and unmade.More

New Catalyst Process Uses Light, Not Metal, for Rapid Polymerization
University of California, Santa Barbara via Phys.org
A team of chemistry and materials science experts from University of California, Santa Barbara and The Dow Chemical Company has created a novel way to overcome one of the major hurdles preventing the widespread use of controlled radical polymerization. More

New Green Technique Recycles All Plastics Without Using Water
Conventional plastic recycling techniques use large quantities water. In order to avoid this waste, Marco Adame founder of Ak Inovex, has recently developed a new green technology, which does not require the use of liquids.More

Aluminum for Production Molding Offers Lower Costs, High-Quality Parts
Plastics Today
Aluminum molds have been used for many years for applications that require lower piece part volumes, such as prototype tooling for part R&D, and using materials that don't damage the cores and cavities. However, aluminum is being used more commonly today even in high-volume production molding applications. In fact, according to Darcy King, president of Unique Tool & Mold: "There are not a lot of applications where you can't use aluminum."More

Solar Cell Polymers With Multiplied Electrical Output
Brookhaven National Laboratory via Phys.org
One challenge in improving the efficiency of solar cells is that some of the absorbed light energy is lost as heat. So scientists have been looking to design materials that can convert more of that energy into useful electricity. Now, a team from the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory and Columbia University has paired up polymers that recover some of that lost energy by producing two electrical charge carriers per unit of light instead of the usual one. More

Fabrication Methods
Composites World
There are numerous methods for fabricating composite components. Some methods have been borrowed (injection molding from the plastic industry, for example), but many were developed to meet specific design or manufacturing challenges faced with fiber-reinforced polymers. Selection of a method for a particular part, therefore, will depend on the materials, the part design and end-use or application. More

Europe's Dilemma Over Industrial Renaissance
European Plastics News
The European Commission wants an industrial renaissance. As the EU has struggled to haul itself out of a long recession, the Commission has expressed its desire for a stronger industrial sector, with its big contribution to exports and job creation, as a means for creating a resilient European economy. The Commission has set a target for industry's share in Europe's GDP to increase to 20 percent by 2020, from a level around 15 percent to which it has fallen in recent years. It said in January 2014 that enhancing industrial competitiveness is vital for achieving that goal and it would prioritize this in all policy areas.More

Emissions-Free Cars: Study Characterizes Essential Reaction for Renewable Energy Fuel Cells
University of Delaware via Phys.org
A University of Delaware research team is considering the important question of what it will take to create an affordable emissions-free car. The question, an issue of engineering and economics, is being studied by a team led by Yushan Yan, Distinguished Professor of Engineering.More

NASA Grant to Create Composite Lego in Space
Reinforced Plastics
The NASA Early Career Faculty Space Technology Research Grant program is designed to accelerate the development of innovative technologies in academia that address the needs of America’s space program as well as other government agencies and the commercial flight industry. Hansen's grant is worth approximately $579,000 spread over a period of three years.More

Falling Oil Prices Push PE Prices Down
Plastics News
The global slump in crude oil prices has impacted the North American polyethylene resin market, sending prices down an average of 4 cents per pound in December. Oil was trading near $100 per barrel in July — the level it had occupied for much of the last few years — but fell below $49 in late trading Jan. 7. Low demand and increasing supplies in the U.S. and Middle East have played a role in the slide. U.S. oil production in particular has increased as a result of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling.More

Nano's growing ... in 3-D
Plastics Engineering
Nanocomposites development shows the extreme possibilities of what's possible with additives — specifically, the finely distributed nanoparticles that, at low loadings, create altogether new kinds of polymer-based materials. The SPE Polymer Nanocomposites 2014 conference in October at Lehigh University was a key event to attend to understand the progress in developing these materials for mainstream engineered applications — and even for use in 3-D printing/additive manufacturing.More

New Conductive Polymer Coating Enables Less Invasive, Targeted Medical Devices
Plastics Today
Medical device coating technology that is designed to enhance communication at the interface between human tissue and electrodes has been introduced by Biotectix, a supplier of proprietary conducting polymers. Amplicoat reportedly overcomes the limitations of other conductive coatings in medical applications by offering improved durability, processability and performance. The coating is available for license and commercialization on medical devices; other applications are currently under development.More

Now 3-D Printers can Make Fake Wood, Stone and Metal
The Telegraph
Increasingly affordable 3-D printers are capable of creating objects of almost any shape but, until now, the only options you had when choosing material was which color of plastic you fed into the machine — the results always had the same plastic appearance. But one of the leading commercial manufacturers of 3-D printers has demonstrated new materials at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, which are still plastics, but which can mimic the look and feel of materials such as maple wood, limestone and even iron or bronze.More

White House, Energy Department Launch Composites Initiative
Plastics News
Fiber-reinforced plastics are getting attention and a cash infusion from the White House. President Barack Obama announced Jan. 9 that the U.S. Department of Energy will launch a competition that will help develop lightweight composites needed for clean energy products including fuel-efficient and electric vehicles, wind turbines and hydrogen and natural gas storage tanks.More

Simon Creasey: How Converters, Packaging Specifiers are Improving Rigid Plastics' Sustainability Story
Packaging News
Few industry sectors weathered the global economic downturn as well as packaging. A quick glimpse at the Dow Jones indices over the last 10 years supports this assertion, with containers and packaging posting growth of 86 percent — versus the 38 percent achieved by the FTSE 100 — while key industry sectors, such as construction and aluminum, slumped 25 percent and 50 percent respectively.More

Researchers Design Reversibly Self-Folding Origami Structures Using UV Photolithographic Patterning
A team of researchers from University of Massachusetts Amherst have developed a method of constructing self-folding reversible origami structures on small length scales using ultraviolet photolithographic patterning on photo-crosslinkable polymers. Over the last 15 years, several advancements have been made in constructing 3-D structures using self-folding 2-D sheets. This new research has created the most complex of structures ever to be made to date.More

Thermoformers Find 'Ideas Worth Forming'
Plastics Engineering
The theme "Ideas Worth Forming" was apparent throughout the SPE Thermoforming Division's 23rd Annual Thermoforming Conference, held Sept. 15-18, 2014, in Schaumburg, Illinois. During the event, attendees from all over the world heard about new developments in thermoforming techniques, equipment, and materials, and also networked with colleagues.More

Toyota Opens Patents to Build Momentum for Fuel Cell Future
European Plastics News
Toyota Motor Corp, the auto industry's loudest advocate for hydrogen-fueled vehicles, said it won’t enforce more than 5,600 patents it owns on hydrogen fuel-cell technology through 2020, allowing rivals to reap the fruits of its research royalty-free, including plastics-intensive systems. The move mirrors a step last year by Tesla Motors, which opened its book of patents to spur adoption of battery electric vehicles.More

Study: Reshoring Impact Doesn't Match Hype
Rubber News
While reshoring of manufacturing from low-cost Asian countries has given a boost to U.S. manufacturers, it may be as much hype as reality, as imports from the region are still growing faster than U.S. production, a new study finds. The study from management consultants A.T. Kearney noted that U.S. manufacturing production grew 6 percent a year from 2009 to 2013. But it also said that imported manufactured goods from Asia grew even faster, at 8 percent a year, during the same time frame.More

New York City to Ban Most EPS
European Plastics News
In a blistering condemnation of expanded polystyrene, New York City is finally outlawing many products made from the controversial material. It's a move that the American Chemistry Council and its Plastics Foodservice Packaging Group calls puzzling, illogical and hurtful to the local economy. The city decision comes after more than a year of debate following the passage of a city law that required the city Department of Sanitation to examine whether EPS could be effectively recycled.More

Growth in Canada is Helping US-Based Plastics Distributor
Canadian Plastics
Growth in Canada contributed to a great year in 2014 for Chase Plastics, a U.S.-based stocking distributor of more than 6,400 specialty, engineering and commodity thermoplastics. Clarkston, Michigan-based Chase Plastics grew its total revenue to $217 million in 2014, a nine percent year-over-year increase, and is on pace to exceed $260 million by 2016 – growth fuelled in part by the company's continued expansion in Canada, where it increased year-over-year revenue by 21 percent and its total customer base by more than 18 percent.More

Manufacturing Job Growth Up in 2014
Manufacturing job growth increased dramatically in 2014 compared to the previous year, according to numbers from the federal Labor Department released Jan. 9. The report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed the manufacturing sector added an average of 16,000 jobs per month in 2014, compared to gains of 7,000 jobs per month for 2013.More