When Oscar Pistorius, of the South African Track and Field Team, races this August at the London Olympics, probably the only thing he won’t be breaking is his legs – his carbon fiber legs, that is. Made by Össur, this manufacturing company employs 1600 people in 14 locations around the world, and Southern California is their U.S. headquarters. Össur specializes in innovation and materials manipulation, and has been named by the World Economic Forum as a “Technology Pioneer”.
At MIT, the Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies researches nanostructured fibers and materials, as well as nano-systems integration, to protect America’s soldiers.
And in companies such as Autonomic Materials in Champaign, Illinois, polymers are being developed that provide “intrinsic healing” which means that buildings have the potential to “heal themselves” after an earthquake, or that ships and equipment can be protected against weathering by an industrial coating with capsules of resins in it to automatically fill in gaps made by weather damage.
So what’s going on with materials manipulation and engineering? Is this something we should care about?
Yes, is the correct answer, as you might have already guessed. Materials engineering employment is expected to grow 9 percent between now and 2020, and these engineers are in demand in careers such aerospace manufacturing, medical manufacturing, energy efficiency, and scientific research. To be a materials engineer requires a bachelor’s degree in a STEM discipline and some practical experience such as an internship. The median wage of a materials engineer is approximately $83,000.
This is one of the most exciting developments in the world of manufacturing, and has the ability to “change the playing field” as manufacturers work with new materials that were previously unusable, and can now be designed into products as cool as James Bond’s roadster. This ability to manage or create new materials is aligned with work going on in additive manufacturing, which seeks to use materials in new ways- quicker, cheaper, and more effectively, including printing with living tissue, using powder as a liquid binder, melting thermoplastic for delicate work, and stereo lithography using ultraviolet light.
So while you are watching the Olympics this summer and marveling at the strength of the athletes, you might want to think about how manufacturing has, in ground-breaking ways, helped make some of these athletes’ achievements possible, and what it can also do for you.
 http://io9.com/5780827/two-new-building-materials-that-are-about-to-revolutionize-the-world. Check out Autonomic Materials: http://www.autonomicmaterials.com/applications/