New Materials and 3-D Printing

Why is this important? – Likely to transform manufacturing

grapheneNew Materials: New materials such as graphene are set to transform the way in which we manufacture products making them lighter, more flexible and stronger. Technologies include nanotechnology and materials inspired by examining evolutionary adaptations such as the “Gecko’s foot” or the “Shark’s skin”.

Examples : Rain repellent coatings for buildings and glass; Sports equipment with excellent gripping or streamlining properties; Metallic powders for manufacturing; Nanotechnology used in spill clean-up; Advanced dental materials; Graphene “tubes” within copper to reduce the weight of aircraft control connections.

3-D Printing : This is still in its infancy but is already producing novel and important advances; capable of producing components to very fine tolerances.

Artificial ear and nose

Artificial ear and nose

Examples : Medical uses include skin tissue,  prosthetics, and support structures as scaffolds for tissue regeneration. Used in design for prototyping. Some high value components already produced this way for example components for use in racing cars.

Skills needed : Useful skills include physics, chemistry, materials science, medicine, manufacturing engineering, computer science, and clothing design.

What will push development : Large potential for reducing costs in manufacturing. Highly useful in engineering design. Medical applications are groundbreaking in difficult areas such as reducing scar tissue. Gives ability to manufacture more powerful computers and lighter components for transport. Allows innovative fashion and sporting clothing design.

Consequences : Could move manufacturing back to being a local process with designs and materials moving globally, instead of the end manufactured product.