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Columbia University researchers developed a silicone based 3D-printable synthetic soft muscle  

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

New York, NY - Researchers at Columbia Engineering have solved a long-standing issue in the creation of untethered soft robots whose actions and movements can help mimic natural biological systems. A group in the Creative Machines lab led by Hod Lipson, professor of mechanical engineering, has developed a 3D-printable synthetic soft muscle, a one-of-a-kind artificial active tissue with intrinsic expansion ability that does not require an external compressor or high voltage equipment as previous muscles required. The new material has a strain density (expansion per gram) that is 15 times larger than natural muscle, and can lift 1000 times its own weight. Their findings are outlined in a new study, “Soft Material for Soft Actuators,” published by Nature Communications. Previously, no material has been capable of functioning as a soft muscle due to an inability to exhibit the desired properties of high actuation stress and high strain. Existing soft actuator technologies are typically based on pneumatic or hydraulic inflation of elastomer skins that expand when air or liquid is supplied to them. The external compressors and pressure-regulating equipment required for such technologies prevent miniaturization and the creation of robots that can move and work independently. “We’ve been making great strides toward making robots minds, but robot bodies are still primitive,” said Hod Lipson. “This is a big piece of the puzzle and, like biology, the new actuator can be shaped and reshaped a thousand ways. We’ve overcome one of the final barriers to making lifelike robots.” Inspired by living organisms, soft material robotics hold great promise for areas where robots need to contact and interact with humans, such as manufacturing and healthcare. Unlike rigid robots, soft robots can replicate natural motion, grasping and manipulation, to provide medical and other types of assistance, perform delicate tasks or pick up soft objects. To achieve an actuator with high strain and high stress coupled with low density, lead author of the study Aslan Miriyev, a postdoctoral researcher in the Creative Machines lab, used a silicone rubber matrix with ethanol distributed throughout in micro-bubbles. The solution combined the elastic properties and extreme volume change attributes of other material systems while also being easy to fabricate, low cost and made of environmentally safe materials. After being 3D-printed into the desired shape, the artificial muscle was electrically actuated using a thin resistive wire and low-power (8V). It was tested in a variety of robotic applications where it showed significant expansion-contraction ability, being capable of expansion up to 900% when electrically heated to 80°C. Via computer controls, the autonomous unit is capable of performing motion tasks in almost any design. “Our soft functional material may serve as robust soft muscle, possibly revolutionizing the way that soft robotic solutions are engineered today,” said Miriyev. “It can push, pull, bend, twist and lift weight. It’s the closest artificial material equivalent we have to a natural muscle.” The researchers will continue to build on this development, incorporating conductive materials to replace the embedded wire, accelerating the muscle’s response time and increasing its shelf life. Long-term, they will involve artificial intelligence to learn to control the muscle, which may be a last milestone towards replicating natural motion. - * Email

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Technavio announces top five leading vendors in the global silicone elastomers market from 2017-2021  

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

London, England - Technavio has announced the top five leading vendors in their recent global silicone elastomers market 2017-2021 report. This market research report also lists 12 other prominent vendors that are expected to impact the market during the forecast period. According to the research analysis, the global silicone elastomers market is one of the growing markets. The market is oligopolistic in nature. Key vendors in the market have integrated their businesses in the backward direction in a cost-effective way. The companies are engaged in extending their product portfolios with increasing R&D cost. For instance, companies such as Momentive, Wacker Chemie, The Dow Chemical Company, Shin-Etsu Chemical and Reiss Manufacturing are involved in the backward integration of the operations. Momentive manufactures silicone raw material to produce elastomers. “The global silicone elastomers market is expected to grow at a significant pace during the forecast period, owing mainly to high demand from the construction and automobile segments. Increasing demand from the cosmetic end-user segment and healthcare industry have also triggered the demand for silicone elastomers. The competitive environment in the market might further intensify over the next five years as vendors are competing based on factors such as the cost of production, innovation in products, price, operational cost, research and development cost, and product quality,” says Kshama Upadhyay, a lead plastics, polymers, and elastomers analyst from Technavio. Technavio market research analysts identify the following key vendors: KCC offers a range of high-value-added products for end-user industries, such as automotive, construction, and industrial consumer goods and plants. The company sells its silicone elastomers products under integrated organic silicone product group. The silicone elastomer products offered by the company are used in various end-user industries. Momentive manufactures and sells silicones, silicones derivatives, specialty ceramics, and products derived from quartz. It caters to end-user industries, such as automotive, textiles, agriculture, healthcare, energy, electrical and electronics. The company offers a range of liquid silicone rubbers (LSR), heat-cured elastomers, additives, bonding agents, and customized solutions to various end-users with improved silicone elastomers properties. It offers its products under the brand names, such as Addisil, Silplus, Silopren, Tufel and StatSil. Shin-Etsu Chemical manufactures and sells PVC, silicones and semiconductor silicon wafers globally. It caters to various end-user industries, such as paper and pulp, automotive, cosmetic, electronics and electrical, and chemical. The company offers a range of silicone products, such as fluids, liquid silicone rubber, rubber, and powders, which are used in applications such as building sealant, electronic device heat dispersion materials, eco-tires, high-performance contact lens and cosmetic ingredients. The Dow Chemical Company focuses on providing clean water solutions, increasing agricultural productivity, and clean energy generation and conservation. It offers specialty chemicals, advanced materials, and agricultural products and services. It manufactures and distributes silicon-based products to various industries such as automotive, textiles, electronics and healthcare. It offers its products under the brand names Silastic, Xiameter and Sylgard. Wacker Chemie manufactures and sells a wide range of specialty chemical products including silicone rubbers, silicone fluids and waxes, silicone resins, dispersions, hybrid materials, pyrogenic silica, rock salt, cyclodextrins, polymer resins and polysilicon, to industries such as automotive, construction, consumer goods, healthcare, life science, energy, electronics and electrical, and elastomers and plastics. - * Email

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AdvantaPure introduces AdvantaSil High Pressure unreinforced silicone tubing  

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Southhampton, PA - AdvantaPure introduces AdvantaSil High Pressure unreinforced silicone tubing, a high quality, cost-effective solution designed to deliver increased flow rates and reduce processing time. The tubing’s unreinforced characteristic allows for limited pumpability up to 30 psi back pressure and makes it easier to see process fluids. AdvantaSil High Pressure is the optimal choice for single-use applications such as TFF, virus filtration, inline integrity testing of filtration assemblies, and high volume fluid transfer. Gregg Donovan, AdvantaPure’s product manager, noted that, “The demand for translucent, flexible, unreinforced silicone tubing that can handle higher pressures was clear. AdvantaSil High Pressure offers burst pressures that are more than triple those of standard silicone transfer tubing.” Extruded from USP Class VI, platinum-cured silicone, AdvantaSil High Pressure is designed for single use, although it is not limited only to disposable applications. The tubing handles short run peristaltic pump applications requiring 30 psi back pressure, and most sizes offer full vacuum capability. Because the tubing does not contain braid reinforcement, particulate shedding that can occur when cutting braided hose is eliminated. AdvantaSil High Pressure silicone tubing operates with temperatures ranging from -65°F to 400°F (-53.9°C to 204.4°C). AdvantaSil High Pressure has undergone extensive physical, chemical and biological testing and meets USP Class VI, FDA, ISO and European Pharmacopoeia standards. Additionally, full BPOG extractables testing is in process with a fully-accredited, third-party test laboratory. The platinum silicone tubing contains no animal derived ingredients and is sterilizable by autoclave or gamma irradiation. It is made by AdvantaPure in the U.S. and stocked in five sizes from 1/4" through 1” I.D. - * Email

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Engel opens MuCell Competence Center for structural foam in Stuttgart  

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Stuttgart, Germany - Structural foam molding is said to be one of the most important lightweight technologies available today and continues strong growth worldwide. The injection molding machine manufacturer and provider of system solutions Engel, headquartered in Schwertberg, Austria, is responding to this trend by strengthening its application technology globally. One area of focus is Germany. In September, Engel Deutschland Technologieforum Stuttgart opened a MuCell Competence Center. “As a Competence Center, we are even better able to support our customers to more fully exploit the potential offered by the physical foaming process,” says Claus Wilde, managing director at Engel Deutschland in Stuttgart. “We already have a number of major customers here in southwestern Germany who use the MuCell process in their factories worldwide.” Therefore, a large manufacturing cell has been installed in the Engel Technology Center in Stuttgart for customer trials, development work, application-specific consulting, training and small-lot production; for example, for initial sampling. Equipped with an Engel Duo 350 injection molding machine with a clamping force of 3,500 kN, an integrated Engel Easix multi-axis robot and a T-200 MuCell unit from the company’s technology partner Trexel, the cell covers a broad spectrum of applications. Long before the Competence Center was opened, Engel had appointed a MuCell technology expert for the site. Over the past months, Lukas Neunzig has successfully completed numerous MuCell projects with customers from around the world at Engel’s headquarters in Schwertberg and at the large-scale machine plant in St. Valentin, and he is bringing this experience to Stuttgart. To celebrate the inauguration of the Competence Center, Engel hosted a MuCell technology event in mid-September, which was fully booked several weeks in advance with over 120 participants. “The great success of our event confirms the huge potential and strong demand here in the southwest,” Wilde emphasized. The technology event underlined a further trend: MuCell is not just for car manufacturers. “We are receiving a growing number of inquiries from other industries as well, such as technical injection moulding and medical technology,” says Wilde. There are two main factors that are key to the great success of MuCell technology. First is the general lightweight trend and, second, the high quality of the components produced in the structural foam molding process. Physical foaming involves the injection and homogeneous distribution of a blowing agent into the plastic melt during plastification. After injection into the mold, the gas separates from the melt and creates a fine-cell foam structure. In this way, significantly less material is needed to fill the cavities compared to standard injection molding and the component weight decreases. At the same time, components produced by MuCell have proven to have high dimensional stability. Since foaming enhances the flow properties of the melt, even challenging geometries with undercuts are completely filled. MuCell is a brand owned by the company Trexel, located in Wilmington, MA. As a system supplier, Engel imports the MuCell systems for its customers and manages the integration of the controls and safety aspects into the injection molding machine, making it very easy to implement the technology. Apart from Stuttgart, Engel also offers customers its MuCell know-how and machine capabilities in Austria, the USA and China. - * Email

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Global rubber coated fabrics market forecast to reach $2 billion by 2022  

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Albany, NY - The global rubber coated fabrics market is forecast to post a CAGR of 5.0 percent for the forecast time frame 2017-2022. By the concluding forecast year, the market could collect a revenue of approximately $2.0 billion, a progress from an estimated $1.5 billion in 2017, according to Transparency Market Research. The global rubber coated fabrics market is forecast to ride its growth on the back of hefty investments directed toward steel and military, chemical, infrastructure, automotive, and oil and gas industries in Asia Pacific regions. Developing countries of the world, especially in Asia Pacific, are experiencing an unwavering boost in their economic growth. While this could notably augur well for the global market, there are more factors anticipated to bring in some favorable opportunities for industry players. The robust application outlook in the automotive sector on account of tight regulatory compliance and consistent customization and aesthetic improvement needs could promise an upward growth in the market. The world rubber coated fabrics market is predicted to be cataloged into Asia Pacific except Japan (APEJ), Europe, North America, Japan, Latin America, and the Middle East and Africa (MEA). By 2022, APEJ could still remain as one of the most attractive regions for rubber coated fabrics with respect to revenue. By the end of 2017, APEJ is envisioned to garner a 28.7 percent share. North America and Europe could be among the second-largest regions, where the latter is prognosticated to rise at a 4.9 percent CAGR. According to the report, vendors such as Microsemi Corp., L-Com, Inc., Sixnet Holding LLC, ICP DAS Co., Ltd., and N-TORN Corp. are anticipated to make the cut in the worldwide rubber coated fabrics market. New product launch and innovation could be key bases for the substantial increase in the competitiveness of the market. - * Email

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