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.
The amount of plastic clogging the ocean continues to grow. Some startling, not-so-good news has come out recently about the roles plastic is playing in the ocean, as well as more heartening news about efforts to collect and reuse it.
Optomec's third America Makes project for metal 3D printing teams the LENS process company with GE Aviation, Lockheed, and other big aerospace names to develop guidelines for repairing high-value flight-critical Air Force components.
A self-propelled robot developed by a team of researchers headed by MIT promises to detect leaks quickly and accurately in gas pipelines, eliminating the likelihood of dangerous explosions. The robot may also be useful in water and petroleum pipe leak detection.
Aerojet Rocketdyne has built and successfully hot-fire tested an entire 3D-printed rocket engine. In other news, NASA's 3D-printed rocket engine injectors survived tests generating a record 20,000 pounds of thrust. Some performed equally well or better than welded parts.
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