Sustainable and renewable materials must meet the same performance requirements as petro-based materials, including thermal stability, durability, and stiffness. Ford says its prototype vehicle components made with Weyerhaeuser's cellulose-based plastic composites meet those requirements and have other benefits. They weigh about 10 percent less than fiberglass components and can be produced 20-40 percent faster while using less energy. They don't discolor, and they have no odor.
In June, Ford teamed up with Coca-Cola, Heinz, Nike, Procter & Gamble, and other companies to form the Plant PET Technology Collaborative. Its members use polyethylene terephthalate (PET), a material found in things like automotive fabric and carpeting, plastic bottles, and footwear. The group aims to speed up the use and development of 100 percent plant-based PET materials and fiber in multiple industries. It also wants to develop common methods and standards for the new materials' use, such as common terminology and life cycle analyses.
In its latest sustainability report, Ford outlined its efforts to cut waste during the car manufacturing processes. These efforts include recycling scrap metals and collecting damaged parts from dealer-repaired vehicles -- such as sensors, fuel injectors, engine parts, headlamps, and bumpers -- and remanufacturing them or recycling them to recover the raw materials. About 85 percent of materials used in each vehicle is recyclable, according to the report. From 2007 to 2011, the company cut landfill waste by 40 percent to 22.7 pounds per vehicle, and it has set a goal of lowering that figure another 40 percent by 2016.
Other internal goals include cutting the water used in car manufacturing by 30 percent per vehicle between 2009 and 2015, cutting greenhouse gas emissions at manufacturing facilities by 30 percent per vehicle from 2010 and 2025, and cutting energy consumed per vehicle globally by 25 percent between 2011 and 2016.
Artificially created metamaterials are already appearing in niche applications like electronics, communications, and defense, says a new report from Lux Research. How quickly they become mainstream depends on cost-effective manufacturing methods, which will include additive manufacturing.
SpaceX has 3D printed and successfully hot-fired a SuperDraco engine chamber made of Inconel, a high-performance superalloy, using direct metal laser sintering (DMLS). The company's first 3D-printed rocket engine part, a main oxidizer valve body for the Falcon 9 rocket, launched in January and is now qualified on all Falcon 9 flights.
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and MIT have 3D-printed a new class of metamaterials that are both exceptionally light and have exceptional strength and stiffness. The new metamaterials maintain a nearly constant stiffness per unit of mass density, over three orders of magnitude.
Smart composites that let the material's structural health be monitored automatically and continuously are getting closer to reality. R&D partners in an EU-sponsored project have demonstrated what they say is the first complete, miniaturized, fiber-optic sensor system entirely embedded inside a fiber-reinforced composite.
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