Design News released an article this week on the top five material trends of 2011. There were some interesting observations presented in the article that we wanted to share with our followers.
“The five most important materials trends of this past year enable volume manufacturing. They are concerned mostly with new alternative materials or processes. Volume may start out small, but the material or processes will likely spur high growth. The five areas the article looked at were additive manufacturing (AM), plastics, composites, metals, and recycling.
Several trends concern automotive manufacturing. Here, new materials and processes must not only meet regulations and cost objectives, but also must fit smoothly and easily into highly automated manufacturing processes without compromising them or slowing them down.”
- Additive manufacturing: The most important development was the big burst of new materials.
- Plastics: Aside from these medical-grade plastics, the most significant plastics breakthrough this year was bioplastics.
- Automotive composites: Demand is growing for several different types, primarily carbon and glass fiber.
- Steel and recycling: The steel industry also contends that newer lightweight, high-strength steel can give composites a run for their money when it comes to strength and emissions.
- Composites and recycling: Boeing’s celebrated launch of its composite-heavy 787 Dreamliner is one indication that carbon-fiber composites could be plentiful in landfills when they eventually wear out. The company’s decision to help fund research on how to recycle those materials may presage or spark further work in this area, which could also affect the growing amount of plastics used in automotive and medical applications.