For the past 120 years, we at Thomas have been helping industry in North America grow. And we grow along with industry. Our expert taxonomy team identifies industry trends and the needs of buyers like you to add new sourcing categories every month to our growing collection of over 70,000 products and services. If you're interested in a peek behind the scenes of how Thomasnet works, we've got the rundown on 11 of our newest and most interesting categories, from soft robotics to biogas.
1. Soft Robotics
Soft robotics are an emerging technology that feature soft parts on robots to give them more delicate grips. Not only does this mean a robotic arm can pick up individual wine glasses or hot cross buns, it also translates to savings and increased efficiency.
2. High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) Systems
HPLC systems separate and analyze materials into their component parts, as in this case where honey could be analyzed to see if it had been watered down with corn syrup. Laboratory equipment sourcing at the federal level is predicted to grow over the coming year as the government plans to expand its research and development budget, especially in the areas of facilities and equipment.
3. Near Infrared Spectrophotometers (NIR)
Near infrared spectrophotometers offer another type of analysis, allowing the user to find the biodiesel content in biodiesel fuels, for example, or to examine chicken meat for chemical composition and anomalies, to avoid quality issues or product fraud.
4. Scanning Electron Microscopes (SEM)
Like many other devices in industry, scanning electron microscopes are getting automated, where they are able to collect data sets for population statistics or unique occurences. Automation is one of the biggest forces currently sweeping industry. There is controversy about its effect on jobs, but it is also becoming more and more necessary for companies to compete.
5. Hafnium Sponge
Hafnium is used in vacuum tubes to remove trace gases, as an alloying agent for several metals, and in nuclear reactors as part of control rods. Despite nuclear's controversial existence as a power source, nuclear plants are producing more electricity than ever in the United States as fewer, newer plants produce power more efficiently.
6. Smart Packaging
Although green packaging is getting a lot of attention at the moment, smart packaging is also coming into the picture with the growth of IoT and smart technology in industry. With a smart package, you can trace its route and location, manage your inventory, and see how the customer interacts with it for future improvements in design.
One of the lesser known alternative fuels, biogas's production process removes organic waste from the environment and processes it into fuel and fertilizer through the use of anaerobic bacteria. With alternative energies having increased to 33% of the world's total energy output, alternative fuels are becoming more popular than ever. Biogas solves the problem of one of the key drawbacks of wind and solar (two of the more popular clean power sources): it provides a constant source of energy without relying on weather conditions.
8. Locomotive Sanding Wands
What does a train need a sand wand for? Train tracks, like everything else outdoors, can become slippery during cold or wet weather. To help with traction, locomotives have a system to spray sand on the rails, and spraying wands help with pumping that sand into the train's reservoir. Currently, 80% of railways carry freight, and the demand for railway freight is expected to grow to 25.3 billion tons by 2045 as more and more industrial and consumer goods are transported that way.
9. Hemp Drinking Straws
Hemp drinking straws won't get you high, but they are both durable and better for the environment than plastic straws. Sourcing for straws made of alternative materials, especially paper, has risen as cities in New York and California have banned plastic straws because of their negative impact on the environment.
10. Gummy Supplements
Dietary supplements are on the rise as consumer demand for healthier foods has risen, leading manufacturers and distributors to offer more varieties of food and vitamins to meet demand. Gummy supplements can contain all sorts of vitamins and other ingredients, including hemp or other marijuana products, giving these products a boost from both the trend toward health and marijuana's increasing popularization.
11. Locomotive Jump Starters
Like cars, sometimes train engines also need a jump start when their batteries get fried. As with sanding wands, there will be a growing need for products like these as ground shipping increases with ecommerce, which is growing at a double digit pace.
12. Grow Room Equipment and Supplies
As with several other items on this list, grow room products have gotten a boost as legal marijuana has become more popular. However, vertical farming is also a growing trend, offering year round growing in small amounts of space while reducing pollution from fertilizer and pesticide runoff.
13. Gear Shaping Services
Gear shaping is one of several processes to manufacture gears. Gear machining as a whole has changed in recent years, thanks to machinery that can multitask as it produces gears, including milling and finishing on the same machine.
14. Isodecyl Pelargonate
Isodecyl Pelargonate is a type of plasticizer added to rocket fuel to keep the fuel from becoming too thick when it's contained in large quantities. This plasticizer has been recently used in propellants thanks to its better mixing properties and lesser danger to human health, as opposed to other plasticizers such as dioctyl adipate.
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