"Smart Materials" Drives Demand for Applications in the Global Metalworking Industry
Since copper smelting was discovered in 3,000 BC and used in jewelry, now the world of material technology has evolved so much that we have arrived at the age of "Smart Materials." They have been increasingly applied in various industries as well as metalworking industry which is the economic driving force and the core of national development.
“Smart materials” are adaptive materials or intelligent materials that can be manipulated by external stimuli such as humidity, temperature, light, electromagnetic fields, and pressure to achieve the desired performance results. They present some distinguished characteristics from general materials, such as flexibility and the ability to resume original shape if broken or damaged. They are able to repair themselves and respond well to the changes in environment. These changes can occur and recur indefinitely. There are many types of smart materials, each of which has different unique properties.
One popular example of smart materials is shape-memory alloys (SMA). These are metals with the unique ability to remember their shape before being transformed. If it is twisted until it changes shape, it will return to its original shape. This is different from conventional materials that would stay in the changed form once bent or twisted. These smart materials are used in sports equipment and car chassis as well as some medical applications. They are also used for making nozzles on the fire extinguisher, the hot water valve for a shower or coffee maker, eyeglass frames, and more.
Smart metal materials such as “titanium” and “titanium alloy” have wide applications in medical and dentistry industries due to their strength, durability, and biocompatibility. They also have excellent corrosion resistance properties. In medical practice, they are used as implant materials such as artificial knee joints and artificial hip joints. In dentistry, titanium plays an increasingly important role as well as it is used as dental implant.
Obviously, smart materials are increasingly used in various industries, including the defense industry, aerospace, automotive, and consumer electronics.
At the same time, the governmental endorsement in many countries especially those in emerging markets has led to a high demand for smart materials. Since many key players invested heavily into R&D for enhanced efficiency, quality, and reduced production cost, smart materials have become even more desirable. Gartner forecasts that the value of smart materials will be worth $72.63 billion in 2022, with a compound annual growth rate of 14.9% (during the 2016-2022 forecast period).
Smart materials are directly related to the metalworking industry because it is serving many other industries down the line, from material sourcing to processing into parts and products which are all important in the development of the national economy. Therefore, the Ministry of Industry has formulated a 20-year development strategy for Thai Industry 4.0 (2017-2036) to increase Thailand's competitiveness and support changes that will occur in the future. This plan requires the metalworking industry to use technology and innovation to develop products such as composite materials or lightweight materials that reduce energy consumption, are durable, sustainable, and environmentally friendly. Such agenda has made smart materials even more in demand in the market.
One material that is highly popular is "Aluminium" because it is one of the most abundant metals in the world. It meets the needs of applications with the lightweight feature and versatility. It is also highly durable so it is often used as an alternative material to steel. Aluminum is mostly used in cars and light trucks and the percentage has been growing. Surveys from WardsAuto and DuPont Automotive confirm that aluminum is the material of choice for engineers and designers as an answer to the call for energy reduction and to comply with EURO7 emissions standards that will be enforced in Europe by 2025.
It can be seen that the higher demand for aluminum is in line with the growth of electric vehicle (EV) which is growing faster than anticipated. In the EV market, the most important factor driving consumer behavior is "capacity" because many fears that the electricity stored in the battery will run out before they reach their destination. To increase the capacity of battery, it is necessary to install the effective size and weight of the battery while reducing the overall weight of the EVs. Using aluminum as materials for the main parts offers the most efficient answer.
If anyone is interested in smart materials as well as the movement of other technologies in the industrial sphere, please follow METALEX Blogs. And next year, be sure to join METALEX March during 9-12 March 2022 at BITEC, Bangkok. There will be a zone specifically dedicated to showcase the state-of-the-art smart materials.