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.
An MIT research team has invented what they see as a solution to the need for biodegradable 3D-printable materials made from something besides petroleum-based sources: a water-based robotic additive extrusion method that makes objects from biodegradable hydrogel composites.
Alcoa has unveiled a new manufacturing and materials technology for making aluminum sheet, aimed especially at automotive, industrial, and packaging applications. If all its claims are true, this is a major breakthrough, and may convince more automotive engineers to use aluminum.
NASA has just installed a giant robot to help in its research on composite aerospace materials, like those used for the Orion spacecraft. The agency wants to shave the time it takes to get composites through design, test, and manufacturing stages.
The European Space Agency (ESA) is working with architects Foster + Partners to test the possibility of using lunar regolith, or moon rocks, and 3D printing to make structures for use on the moon. A new video shows some cool animations of a hypothetical lunar mission that carries out this vision.
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