“The fundamental difference between this list and others is that these innovations are available now,” says Cindy Skelton-Becker, chair of SME’s Manufacturing Enterprise Council (MEC), which selected this year’s innovations.
The innovations are:
The technologies were chosen based on usability across manufacturing industries, positive impact on manufacturing and availability for immediate use.
“High-speed sintering made the list because it promises to dramatically speed up the additive manufacturing process to the point where it’s even more compelling to consider for production applications,” says Skelton-Becker.
Buckypaper, a thin sheet made from tiny nanotubes, is already showing promise as a material in building aerospace vehicles and body armor.
Synthetic gecko tape borrows from the animal kingdom to create an adhesive that can support high shear stress, eliminating the need for high-heat soldering. Synthetic gecko tape will soon be used to create new and lighter materials.
Beyond materials like gecko tape and buckypaper, processes like micro-laser-assisted machining also may revolutionize manufacturing by making it possible to machine materials that were previously impossible to machine.
While high-speed sintering and micro-laser-assisted machining may change how things are done on the shop floor, the last two innovations-wireless power transfer and personal fabrication-will present changes not only for manufacturers but also for consumers.
“For manufacturers, wireless power transfer will completely change the way large machines and complex products like cars and planes are designed and built. And for the consumer, it will make it possible for small electronics and other products to draw power from one central, wireless source. Imagine never having to plug in to recharge your cell phone, iPod or laptop again,” says Skelton-Becker.
Also in the near future, personal fabrication will make prototyping and manufacturing easier, from the shop floor to the consumer. “It differs from traditional forms of additive manufacturing because it’s affordable for use anywhere, whether it’s a company, school or individual,” explains Terry Wohlers, a member of the MEC and expert on additive manufacturing technology.
“The idea of personal fabrication will allow almost anyone to make almost anything anywhere,” adds Wohlers. “It will forever change the way we view manufacturing.”