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.
A make-your-own Star Wars Sith Lightsaber hilt is heftier and better-looking than most others out there, according to its maker, Sean Charlesworth. You can 3D print it from free source files, and there's even a hardware kit available -- not free -- so you can build one just in time for Halloween.
Some next-generation bio-based materials are superior in performance to their petro-based counterparts, but also face some commercial challenges. This is especially true of certain biopolymers, adhesives, coatings, and advanced materials.
Cars and other vehicles, as well as electronics and medical devices, continue to lead the use cases for the new plastics products we've been seeing, as engineers design products for tougher environments.
LeMond Composites, founded by three-time Tour de France cycling champion Greg LeMond, is the first to license a new carbon fiber production method invented by Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) that's faster, cheaper, and greener.
This month will mark the launch of the SpeedFoiler, a super-fast, ultra-lightweight foiling catamaran that can fly short distances over water faster than other foiling designs, in part because of its carbon composite materials.
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