Tech Watch: January 2018

DSM Commits to Toyota Motorsport The racetrack has long been a test bed for 3D printing and related technology.

DSM Commits to Toyota Motorsport
The racetrack has long been a test bed for 3D printing and related technology. In a partnership with Royal DSM Somos (dsm.com), Toyota Motorsport GmBH (TMG) is getting closer to the materials and technology that shape its high-performance racers and eventually make their way into more conventional vehicles. 

The Dutch chemical company will develop and pilot test new materials and technologies for TMG. And there will be a lot of both involved in the partnership, which includes all DSM businesses that regularly supply materials and technology to the automotive sector. That involves engineering plastics such as Dyneema (a polyethylene fiber), and its Somos Taurus material for stereolithography. Parts constructed from the material, which was created in partnership with TMG, can withstand temperatures of 95°C (203°F) 

TMG will also test and evaluate DSM products, and act as a test user for specific projects.

“Our materials already have a strong reputation in the 3D printing community, and as we grow our portfolio to support the 3D printing revolution, we are convinced we can do much more,” said Hugo da Silva, vice president of DSM’s additive manufacturing business and 3D Printing. 


Transparent Solar 

There’s a reason why solar panels lend themselves to things like rooftop shingles and not-clear window panes. To absorb sunlight efficiently, photovoltaic cells need to be colored to pick up light along the visible spectrum. Researchers at Michigan State University (msu.edu) say they have engineered a work-around by developing a new “transparent luminescent solar concentrator.” The material, which uses small organic molecules to absorb invisible wavelengths of sunlight, can adhere to traditional glass, mobile devices, and potentially automotive windshields and sunroofs. 

Using the film, MSU scientists can tune the materials to pick up just the ultraviolet and the near-infrared wavelengths that then “glow” at another wavelength--one largely invisible to the human eye, according to Richard Lunt, an assistant professor of chemical engineering and materials science at MSU. The “glowing” infrared light is guided to the edge of the plastic, where strips of photovoltaic solar cells convert it to electricity. 

“No one wants to sit behind colored glass,” said Lunt, who led the research team. “We take an approach where we actually make the luminescent active layer itself transparent.”

The clear conductor material is still in its early stages and is only able to produce a solar conversion efficiency of about 1 percent. Researchers are aiming to reach 5 percent, however the best colored LSC has an efficiency of around 7 percent, scientists note.


Chinese Syndicate Goes Big for Divergent 3D 

Los Angeles company that literally wants to change how automobiles are constructed through 3D printing technology has received a $100+ million investment from a Chinese holding company. 

Divergent 3D (divergent3d.com), which parts from many other companies in the 3D printing industry in that its outputs are made of metal instead of plastic, announced it will close a $65-million series B round of financing. The venture round was led by Hong Kong-based investment holding company, O Luxe Holdings Limited, which has committed another $40-million from a syndicate of investors if it meets certain growth targets. Horizons Ventures, Shanghai Alliance Investment Limited and Altran Technologies are the other investors.

Divergent says its hardware/software technology can automate structural design 
and enable manufacturers to essentially print customized vehicle bodies. Its production system is billed as a way to limit heavy upfront tooling costs for automotive and aerospace companies, and save on energy and material costs longer term. Divergent raised $23-million in series A financing in January 2016. It has also entered into a strategic partnership with PSA Group, which is composed of Peugeot, Citroen & DS.

The Series B funding will speed up the commercialization of Divergent’s technology and help it expand globally, “especially in the rapidly expanding Chinese electric vehicle market,” the company noted in a statement.