Morphing metal: new material developed by engineers at Cornell UniversityClick image to enlargeEngineers at Cornell Univeristy in Ithaca, NY, have developed a hybrid material comprised of stiff metal and soft, prorous rubber foam that combines the best properties of both-stiffness when it's required and elasticity when a change of shape is needed. And, perhaps of greatest importance, the material has the ability to self-heal if damaged.

The research presents a platform for truly futurisitc shape-shifting objects.

"Imagine an aircraft that could alter its wing shape in midflight and, like a pelican, dive into the water before morphing into a submarine," notes a March 21 press release issued by Cornell Univesity.

“It’s sort of like us – we have a skeleton, plus soft muscles and skin,” says Rob Shepherd, Cornell Univeristy engineering professor. “Unfortunately, that skeleton limits our ability to change shape – unlike an octopus, which does not have a skeleton.”

The idea blends the rigidity and load-bearing capacity of humans with the ability to dramatically alter shape, like an octopus.

“That’s what this idea is about, to have a skeleton when you need it, melt it away when you don’t, and then reform it,” Shepherd said.

This hybrid material combines a soft alloy called Field’s metal with a porous silicone foam. In addition to its low melting point of 144 degrees Fahrenheit, Field’s metal was chosen because, unlike similar alloys, it contains no lead.

“In general, we want the things we make in this lab to be biocompatible,” said Ilse Van Meerbeek, a graduate student in the field of mechanical engineering and a contributor to the paper.

The elastomer foam is dipped into the molten metal, then placed in a vacuum so that the air in the foam’s pores is removed and replaced by the alloy. The foam had pore sizes of about 2 millimeters; that can be tuned to create a stiffer or a more flexible material.

In testing of its strength and elasticity, the material showed an ability to deform when heated above 144 degrees, regain rigidity when cooled, then return to its original shape and strength when reheated.

“Sometimes you want a robot, or any machine, to be stiff,” said Shepherd, whose group recently published a paper on electroluminescent skin, which also has applications in soft robotics. “But when you make them stiff, they can’t morph their shape very well. And to give a soft robot both capabilities, to be able to morph their structure but also to be stiff and bear load, that’s what this material does.”

His group’s work has been published in Advanced Materials and will be the cover story in an upcoming issue of the journal’s print edition.

The work was supported by the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research, the National Science Foundation and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

Companies poorly prepared for new energy economy, research finds

New research from Schneider Electric indicates that while most organizations feel ready for a decentralized, decarbonized and digitized future, many aren’t taking the necessary steps to integrate and advance their energy and sustainability programs.

Jean-Pascal Tricoire, chairman and CEO, Schneider Electric

Sandvik: adding value through community involvement

Situated in the mountains of north-western Tanzania, the rural district of Karagwe was once an influential kingdom. While agriculture remains one of Karagwe’s key sources of income, the area also faces a major water shortage.

Industry falling short on adopting technology to drive sustainability

Today’s industrial leaders recognize the important relationship between digitalization and sustainability, but most are falling short of adopting the technologies required to get there, according to a new study released by ABB.

Elliott Matsuura partners with Starrett; John Wybenga joins Metrology

Elliott Matsuura Canada Inc. has partnered with Starrett Kinemetric Engineering USA to supply optical, vision, and force measurement products in Canada.

CMTS Focus: Manufacturing in Canada

With the Canadian Manufacturing Technology Show (CMTS) fast approaching, Shop Metalworking Technology looks back at some of the top stories about Canadian manufacturers profiled in the pages of the magazine in a periodic feature to showcase the face of manufacturing in the country.

The big business of robotics: $19 B in acquisitions in 2016

Robotics and automation isn't just growing among the manufacturing indusry. The market is wide reaching and in 2016, the year was a banner one for acquisitions of companies involved in robotics and automation, according to The Robot Report.

Translas partners with Gullco on distribution deal

Translas, a global manufacturer of on- torch fume extraction solutions, has announced a distribution partnership with Gullco International Ltd. Based in Newmarket, Ont., Gullco will be the global distributor of Translas’ newest fume extraction solutions, namely Translas 7XE Semi-Automatic Fume Extraction welding gun and the ClearO2 W-Series hi-vac units, designed and engineered for welding automation.

Linamar invests in eMatrix battery pack module developer

Linamar Corporation has entered into an exclusive manufacturing and licensing agreement with Michigan-based eMatrix Energy Systems, Inc. to gain access to leading modular battery pack technology. 

Supply chain disruptions costing Canadian manufacturers billions

Nine out of 10 Canadian manufacturers are still encountering supply chain issues, with over 60 per cent rating the impact of these disruptions as either major or severe, according to a new member survey by Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters (CME).

Quebec metal powders maker launches new gas atomizer program

Eutectic Canada, a Granby, QC, manufacturer of gas atomized powders, has launched its next generation gas atomizer program to produce thermal spray and Plasma Transferred ARC (PTA) metal powder coatings.

Canadian manufacturing sales up 3.4%

RBC Economics reports that Canadian manufacturing sales moved up 3.4% in November of last year, after falling 0.6% in October.

Celestica wins ventilator manufacturing contract

Celestica Inc. has won a program to build 7,500 ventilators for StarFish Medical Inc., a Canadian medical device company, at Celestica’s operation in Newmarket, Ont. 

Canadian exports strong despite supply chain challenges

Canadian merchandise trade continued to rise in November despite the significant transportation disruptions caused by flooding and landslides in British Columbia, Statistics Canada data revealed today.

Ottawa boosts B.C. metal companies with $1.6 M

The federal government has announced funding for two Lower Mainland companies as part of its Steel and Aluminum Initiative.

Formtek to distribute Italian line in North America

Formtek Inc., Cleveland, OH, has become the exclusive North American distributor for Bossi, an Italian manufacturer of inline and secondary surface processing equipment for roll forming and tube mill systems, based in Milan.

Stay In Touch

twitter facebook linkedIn