I’m probably just getting old, but I always swallow hard when I see discussion of plastics in the popular media. The current issue of Time, for example, has a one page article titled “Freshen Up Your Drink” under the heading of “health”. The article tackles the subject of whether it’s OK to re-use water bottles, and looks at the case for single-use PET, polycarbonate, HDPE and stainless steel. A table with the article states that HDPE is “made from petroleum”. Are people supposed to believe that PET and polycarbonate are not derived from petroleum? Possibly they are made from some magical substance that is totally benign from an environmental and health viewpoint. The article states that “PET degrades with use”, but that there are “no known problems” with HDPE. My goodness, HDPE, which is a lower quality material than PET, does not degrade with use? And wait a minute, weren’t we just told five minutes ago by the green lobby that we want this stuff to degrade?
The article tells Time readers to dispose of PET containers after a single use (or re-use them as flower pots!), re-use HDPE containers because they are safe, and re-use stainless containers because they are as safe as glass. Time indicates that scientists have concerns with BPA leaching from PC even at room temperature. The article cautions readers not to fill stainless containers with hot water, but makes no such admonition for HDPE! The melting point for stainless is around 2600F; HDPE, 430F!
I remember 30 or so years ago how much I hated all of the broken glass litter left from people who smashed beer bottles. Today, I do see some trash of cans or plastic bottles, but at least they aren’t a safety hazard. And now we’re worrying about whether it’s safe to re-use plastic containers? OK, but let’s at least make sure we make some sense from a technical perspective.
The 100% solar-powered airplane Solar Impulse 2 is prepping for its upcoming flight, becoming the first plane to fly around the world without using fuel. It's able to do so because of above-average performance by all of the technologies that go into it, especially materials.
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.
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