Last year saw many shining examples of innovation in manufacturing across a variety of industries such as automotive, agriculture, construction and many more.
We couldn’t write about each and every example over the course of a year, so we picked four that stood out from the rest.
GM Aluminum Spot-Welding Breakthrough
General Motors Research & Development has invented an aluminum welding technology that uses a patented multi-ringed domed electrode to weld aluminum to aluminum.
The new spot-welding process can be used for welding of aluminum sheet, extrusion, casting or combinations.
By using this welding technology, GM expects to eliminate at least two pounds from aluminum auto parts such as hoods and doors.
An added benefit of the breakthrough is that it helps to offset the high price of aluminum, and will allow for greater use of the lightweight metal on cars, improving both fuel economy and driving performance.
ClarkDietrich Building Systems Innovates In Construction
ClarkDietrich Building Systems received the Construction Innovation Award from the Cold-Formed Steel Engineers Institute (CFSEI) in May 2013 for its BlazeFrame™ fire-stopping system, used in the construction of a University of Massachusetts Lowell student housing project.
BlazeFrame is a first-of-its-kind product that combines fire and joint protection. The unique design frames interior walls while creating a fire, smoke and sound seal.
When exposed to heat above 375 degrees Fahrenheit, BlazeFrame’s 2 mm-thick fire-stopping material expands up to 35 times its size to prevent the passage of heat, smoke and flames during a fire.
Metalysis Titanium Auto Parts
British company Metalysis developed a new way of producing low-cost titanium powder for additive manufacturing, or 3D printing. This pioneering technology makes use of titanium powder that has been processed from sand.
Dion Vaughan, CEO of Metalysis said, “The Metalysis process could reduce the price of titanium by as much as 75 per cent, making titanium almost as cheap as specialty steels. We believe that titanium made by the Metalysis process could replace the current use of aluminum and steel in many products.”
The Metalysis process is said to be “radically cheaper and environmentally benign compared with existing titanium production methods.” Titanium powder opens the door to 3D printing with metal, which up until now has been limited to plastics.
This development promises to make titanium much more affordable and could spike a increase in the use of titanium components in the automotive, aerospace and defense industries, as well as accelerating the adoption of 3D printing.
Grimme develops AirSep and wins Agritechnica Gold
Every year, the German Agricultural Society organizes Agritechnica, the world’s largest exhibition of agricultural equipment and machinery. Grimme’s AirSep separator won one of four gold medals for innovation in 2013.
The AirSep uses a perforated conveyor base and an uplift airstream to gently separate harvested crops from stones and earth. The AirSep increases output, minimizes manual sorting, and allows farmers to reduce cost-intensive land preparation before planting.
The past year has shown that there remains plenty of opportunity for technology and innovation in manufacturing. We are looking forward to what 2014 has to offer!