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.
Some of the biggest self-assembled building blocks and structures made from engineered DNA have been developed by researchers at Harvard's Wyss Institute. The largest, a hexagonal prism, is one-tenth the size of an average bacterium.
Arevo Labs' end-production 3D printing technology for carbon composites includes a high-temperature, filament fusion printer head design and firmware for use with the company's new carbon fiber and nanotube reinforced high-temperature matrix polymers like PEEK.
Stratasys will buy Solid Concepts and Harvest Technologies and combine them with its RedEye service business. The plan takes aim at end-production manufacturing and will create one of the biggest commercial 3D printing and AM service bureaus.
The International Federation of Robotics reports that global sales of industrial robots decreased by 4% in 2012 over 2011. The biggest hit was electrical/electronics manufacturing, down by 13%; but by region, the Amerficas did well.
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