SPE Industry Update
Jun. 6, 2012

The next big thing: Additive manufacturing
Plastics Today
Additive manufacturing, now the official term, just might contain the "next big thing" where manufacturing is concerned. Though only 24 years old, the AM industry has grown by leaps and bounds in spite of some fits and starts along the way. According to Tim Caffrey, an associate of Terry Wohlers at Wohlers Associates Inc., a full 24 percent of all additive manufactured parts are now in the category of "direct part production."More

Better dispersion of clay in a PET matrix
SPE Plastics Research Online
Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) maintains a good balance of thermal and mechanical properties compared to other conventional polymers and therefore occupies a privileged position in the plastics industry. Although it is well known that incorporating clay minerals into PET enhances its physical, mechanical and barrier properties, industrial applications of PET/clay nanocomposites have been limited because clay disperses poorly in the PET matrix. Thermokinetic mixing reduces the size of clay particles and disperses them more homogeneously than melt extrusion. More

Graphene improves polymer properties
SPE Plastics Research Online
Graphene, a 2-D honeycomb lattice of carbon regarded as the "thinnest material in the universe" has a tremendous number of potential applications. Its excellent mechanical strength, electronic transport properties, favorable thermal conductivity and high surface area make it very well suited for use in polymer matrix nanocomposites. A simple noncovalent method creates polyurethane/graphene nanocomposites with enhanced strength and heat resistance.More

Graphene: The material of the future?
VideoBrief Graphene has leapt to relative fame in the 21st century with a number of high-profile experiments and discoveries. In particular, Andre Geim and Kostya Novoselov of the University of Manchester were awarded the Noble Prize in Physics for their ground-breaking research into this intriguing two-dimensional material. Since then, graphene has been linked with all sorts of technology and potential applications.More

Friction almost vanishes in microscale graphite
Scientists first observed superlubricity in graphite in 2004, and so far all experimental evidence of superlubricity has been obtained on the nanoscale and under vacuum conditions. But in a new study, scientists have demonstrated that superlubricity in graphite can occur over microscale areas and under ambient conditions, which could open the way toward practical applications in micromechanical systems.More

Scientists create faster, more sensitive photodetector by tricking graphene
University of Maryland via PhysOrg
Researchers have developed a new type of hot-electron bolometer, a sensitive detector of infrared light, that can be used in a huge range of applications from detection of chemical and biochemical weapons from a distance and use in security imaging technologies such as airport body scanners to chemical analysis in the laboratory and studying the structure of the universe through improved telescopes.More

Shape memory polymers: Current research and future applications
After being severely and quasi-plastically distorted, shape memory materials are able to recover their original shape when a right stimulus is applied. This phenomenon is known as the shape memory effect (SME), and it has been found in a number of material systems. The potential applications of SME enable us to reshape our design in many ways. More

Organic hydrogel outperforms typical carbon supercapacitors
Ars Technica
Supercapacitors complement batteries in energy storage and delivery schemes, as they can provide quick bursts of power. But supercapacitors hold less energy per volume than a typical battery, so they have limited storage capacity. Stanford University researchers have made a hydrogel using a conducting polymer that has a capacitance about three times greater than a typical carbon supercapacitor.More

Exxon Mobil moves to expand chemical plant in Texas
Houston Chronicle
Exxon Mobil Corp. is planning a multibillion-dollar petrochemical expansion at its Baytown, Texas, complex, looking to take advantage of the country's increasing supply of natural gas. The project would include a new ethane unit, which would, in turn, provide ethylene feedstock for two new polyethylene production lines at the company's nearby Mont Belvieu plastics plant.More

Intel inspired by aerospace to make sturdier laptops with plastic
Engineers at Intel Corp. are applying lessons from aircraft design to create sturdier laptops in a bid to reduce the prices of the new ultrathin computers the top chipmaker is promoting heavily. Engineers at Intel's Dupont, Washington R&D center, including former Boeing Co. employees, have come up with a design method to make plastic laptop cases as strong as more-expensive metal ones typically used in ultrabooks.More

Chinese pipe makers look to shrug off housing slowdown
Plastics News
China's plastic pipe industry expects, for the most part, to shrug off the effects of the cooling in the country's real estate sector and grow from just under 10 million metric tons production last year to 13.2 million metric tons by 2015. That's because the other major drivers for sales of pipe — China's urbanization and related spending on infrastructure like water and sewer systems — continue and in some cases are accelerating.More

New technologies revolutionize prosthetic devices
Plastics Today
Better materials, manufacturing approaches and electronics are rapidly improving the quality of prosthetic devices, making them more responsive, more comfortable and better looking. It's a development that could improve the quality of life for large numbers of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans, as well as many thousands more around the world who have lost limbs as a result of land mines, natural disasters or illnesses, such as diabetes.More

Scientists create the smallest possible 5-ringed molecule, call it olympicene
Popular Science
VideoBrief Graham Richards of the Royal Society of Chemistry was doodling when he thought making "a molecular structure with three hexagonal rings above two others would make for an interesting synthetic challenge." So Richards and a team of chemists got to work, synthesizing and photographing olympicene with remarkable resolution. The molecule has the smallest possible five-ringed structure and requires some serious hardware to catch a glimpse of.More

Report: Thermoforming consolidation to continue
Plastics News
The North American thermoforming market will undergo significant consolidation especially in the lucrative packaging sector, according to a new report that also projects company sales growth of 6 percent through 2014. "Thermoformers Market Review and Outlook 2012" illustrates consolidation activity among 227 companies that served the North American market in 2011. More

Next invisibility cloak is 'Schrödinger's hat'
University of Washington via Futurity
Invisibility, once the subject of magic or legend, is slowly becoming reality, say researchers who have developed what they call "Schrödinger's hat." Over the past five years, mathematicians and other scientists have been working on devices that enable invisibility cloaks — perhaps not yet concealing Harry Potter, but at least shielding small objects from detection by microwaves or sound waves.More