Steel is the foundation of the modern structure, be it buildings, airplanes, or ships. Plain carbon steel is a simple mixture of carbon and iron in just the right proportion to provide excellent strength. As humans have taken to the sky lighter materials have been required. This has led to dominance of aluminum, titanium, and composite materials for weight savings. These materials are stronger per unit weight than steel but more expensive and less plentiful. Scientists have just recently discovered a new steel alloy that provides the strength to weight ratio of titanium using much more available materials. This could lead to a revolution in the structural steel world, but for now they need to find a way to manufacture it outside of a lab setting. Read more here: http://www.gizmag.com/steel-alloy-strong-light-titanium/35996/
Just as 3D printers create objects that have three-dimensional characteristics, 4D printers create objects that have four dimensional characteristics, in that they include a dynamic component that causes their structure to change over time; relying on water, heat, or light to activate them. By using a multi-material printer, it’s possible to generate objects with the properties all in one go. Such “programmable materials” may one day mean that you can buy flat-pack furniture at IKEA, take it home, spray it with a garden hose and then watch it assemble itself! MIT is currently working on this exact thing!
Let’s think about what happens to a thin strip of wood if you get it wet: it warps, as different parts of the wood swell in slightly different ways. Typically, this is bad, because warping is unpredictable and related to the type of wood, the patterns in the grain of that wood, how and where it gets wet, etc. So if we could somehow predict the warping, we could find a piece of wood that we could deliberately warp into a shape that you want just by adding water. With 3D printing it’s possible to manufacture pieces of wood with whatever composition, thickness, and grain characteristics that you want. With a great understanding of how the material behaves, along with computer models, you can 3D print a piece of artificial wood that’s been “pre-programmed” using carefully constructed layers of various thicknesses and grain directions. It will warp itself from flat into exactly the shape you want, just add water! The MIT Self-Assembly Lab has been developing a variety of programmable materials, not just wood. So we could see pre-programmed materials such as carbon fiber in the future as well! Technology just makes our life easier doesn’t it?
Water is definitely not a friend for materials such as metals, electronics, wood, etc. For example, when metal is submerged underwater it increases the rate of corrosion of the metal (i.e steel). So we must consider how we can fight against these negative effects the water produces against devices that are made for the water like boats. There are metals out there that are able to neglect the negative attributes of water; however some of us may not have the money to spend on corrosion resistant steel. So what has been done is to create a coating that could be placed over the metal to act as a layer to protect these metals.
There are many coatings out there today however each of these coatings may serve a different purpose. When developing vehicles or devices for underwater purposes it is important to choose a coating that provides cathodic protection. Cathodic protection is used to prevent the metal from being corroded and is usually cheaper than straight out buying corrosion resistant steel. These coatings do come in different colors so you could alter the color of the metal to your choosing. If you are worried about meeting certain specifications no need to worry. There are coatings that go through testing to ensure performance. For example, a coating called Alocit made by A&E Group was tested by the navy and it is 1 of the 3 that meets the specification for the US Army Corps of Engineers! This coating provides great resistance and adhesion. The best part about this and other coatings is that the installation is simple!