Manufacturing Ideas to Watch – Issue 6 (October 2017)

In this issue of Manufacturing Ideas to Watch: Biofabricating Leather, Joining Dissimilar Materials, Potassium Batteries, MT3O, and Curved Waterjet-Guided Laser Material Processing. Let us know what you think by leaving a comment!

Biofabricating Leather

Material soaking in solution in 3 stacked containers
[Image source: Modern Meadow]

The young company Modern Meadow is working to scale up production of leather made by yeast cells engineered to make a collagen protein. The collagen self-assembles into fibers that Modern Meadow processes into sheets of “raw leather.” Leather manufactured this way uses less resources than leather made by livestock, it is more uniform and consistent, and it can span larger areas than that of the skin of a single animal. Biofabrication is an emerging method of growing materials by leveraging processes of organisms engineered for the task; akin to agriculture but taken to a whole new level. Manufacturers are working on addressing scale-up challenges to move biofabrication from the lab to the factory.
Modern Meadow

Joining Dissimilar Materials

Rivet Weld Technology diagram
[Image source: Optimal Process Technologies]

Rivet Weld Technology opens up the use of lighter weight materials (e.g., aluminum) for key structures not previously considered due to the concerns with joining dissimilar materials. The rivet weld system is a hybrid joining process that combines the advantages of self-pierce riveting with resistance spot welding in a one-step process of joining dissimilar materials such as high strength steels to aluminum. This innovative technology addresses the limitations of existing methods of spot welding, self-piercing riveting, and adhesive bonding as a reliable and robust solution for dissimilar material joining. This new method of joining will have an impact on many manufacturing sectors, including automotive body in white assembly operations.
– Dan Radomski, Optimal Process Technologies

Potassium Batteries

Used nanofibers in potassium battery research
[Image source: Purdue University]

Lithium is categorized as a “critical material” by the Department of Energy and the Department of Defense leading researchers to investigate alternatives to lithium-ion batteries using potassium, which is chemically similar to lithium. For now, potassium batteries hold less energy than a battery made with the same amount of lithium, but potassium is far more abundant and cheaper. Adoption of potassium batteries requires the development of the right combination of cathode, anode, and electrolyte. A team of scientists and engineers from Purdue University, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and National Cheng Kung University in Taiwan recently published a series of articles showing their progress towards finding the right anode material for potassium batteries.
Vilas Pol, Purdue University

Multi-component, multi-material, multi-process topology optimization (M3TO)

Diagram of MT3O
[Image source: Kazuhiro Saitou]

Traditionally, the choice of manufacturing method and part geometry were largely determined through a mix of experience, intuition, and availability. Structural topology optimization (TO) facilitates innovative designs by modeling arbitrary shapes to find those that that still meet the task while optimizing a certain parameter (e.g., mass). But existing TO methods fall short when it comes to designs that can be divided into parts made of different materials. Multi-component, multi-material, multi-process structural topology optimization (M3TO) is a one-of-a-kind method that simultaneously optimizes overall structural topology, part boundaries, and material-process selection in a single loop. Through the optimization results of what-if cases, the designer can also be informed of optimal ways to embed parts made of advanced materials and processes, such as metal 3D printing, within a structural assembly. This technology will help U.S. manufacturers merge design optimization, manufacturing, and materials considerations to produce high-performance, lightweight structures that are economical to manufacture.
Kazuhiro Saitou, University of Michigan

Curved Waterjet-Guided Laser Material Processing

Diagram of waterjet-guided laser
[Image source: Advanced Manufacturing Processes Laboratory]

Curved waterjet-guided material processing is a novel hybrid technique in the field of micro-manufacturing. It uses a laser beam confined within a waterjet, such that it combines the capabilities of laser and waterjet processing and adds a few advantages. For example, energy at the laser target is more uniform and the water serves as an optical guide and simplifies optical focus control allowing precision machining to a considerable depth. The electrode array facilitates the micro-manipulation of the jet’s trajectory and of its point of impingement on the workpiece for markedly enhanced processing accuracy and speed of response. The waterjet also cools the part and flushes material waste. The technology has applications in laser ablation, micro-cutting, surface micro-texturing and modification, and micro-incremental forming to mention a few.
Kornel Ehmann, Northwestern University


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