I spent a month last year in the underdeveloped country of Namibia. Residents were proud to tell me that Namibia is the only country in the world that has a constitution that embraces environmental sustainability.To Namibians, it was a recognition that protection of theirs materials resources was critical to their future. Since I’ve returned to the US, however, it’s become clear that the concept of sustainability, and specifically, sustainable design, will soon become important to us as well.
One specific issue I want to focus on is use of renewable resources as a feedstock for polymers. The immediate reason isn’t really environmental, at least for design engineers. Unstable oil supplies triggered massive runups in plastics prices two years ago. Today it makes sense to study the potential of corn-based polymers for mechanical design projects. Sound crazy? At the giant plastics fair in Germany this fall (K 2007), DuPont plans to present technical data on new grades of Sorona and Hytrel that are corn based. Stay tuned.
As the 3D printing and overall additive manufacturing ecosystem grows, standards and guidelines from standards bodies and government organizations are increasing. Multiple players with multiple needs are also driving the role of 3DP and AM as enabling technologies for distributed manufacturing.
A growing though not-so-obvious role for 3D printing, 4D printing, and overall additive manufacturing is their use in fabricating new materials and enabling new or improved manufacturing and assembly processes. Individual engineers, OEMs, university labs, and others are reinventing the technology to suit their own needs.
For vehicles to meet the 2025 Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, three things must happen: customers must look beyond the data sheet and engage materials supplier earlier, and new integrated multi-materials are needed to make step-change improvements.
3D printing, 4D printing, and various types of additive manufacturing (AM) will get even bigger in 2015. We're not talking about consumer use, which gets most of the attention, but processes and technologies that will affect how design engineers design products and how manufacturing engineers make them. For now, the biggest industries are still aerospace and medical, while automotive and architecture continue to grow.
More and more -- that's what we'll see from plastics and composites in 2015, more types of plastics and more ways they can be used. Two of the fastest-growing uses will be automotive parts, plus medical implants and devices. New types of plastics will include biodegradable materials, plastics that can be easily recycled, and some that do both.
Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.