What are the biggest trends in product design? Someone asked me that at dinner. I gave this response: 1) lightweighting (what else could I say after the big stories this year on the Chevy Volt and Dreamliner), 2) miniaturization, and related issues concerning thermal conductivity of plastics, and 3) a move back toward styling. This came to mind because of the great new looking washers and dryers from Whirlpool and, more recently, the Nokia Classic 6500.The renewed emphasis on styling is due, in part, to the enormous success of Apple with the Mac, the iPod and iPhone. What do you think are the biggest trends?
An MIT research team has invented what they see as a solution to the need for biodegradable 3D-printable materials made from something besides petroleum-based sources: a water-based robotic additive extrusion method that makes objects from biodegradable hydrogel composites.
Alcoa has unveiled a new manufacturing and materials technology for making aluminum sheet, aimed especially at automotive, industrial, and packaging applications. If all its claims are true, this is a major breakthrough, and may convince more automotive engineers to use aluminum.
NASA has just installed a giant robot to help in its research on composite aerospace materials, like those used for the Orion spacecraft. The agency wants to shave the time it takes to get composites through design, test, and manufacturing stages.
The European Space Agency (ESA) is working with architects Foster + Partners to test the possibility of using lunar regolith, or moon rocks, and 3D printing to make structures for use on the moon. A new video shows some cool animations of a hypothetical lunar mission that carries out this vision.
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