Considering a move to bioplastics? Consider the experience of John Deere, which is now in the eighth year of a program to use soybean and corn feedstocks that was not originally driven for green reasons. The biomaterials are used in combine panels, backhoe loader hoods, and tractor hoods. Greg McCunnn, who runs the project, says the materials must be cost competitive and must be a performance drop-in for petroleum-based plastics. Needless to say, significant supply chain work was involved, and included funding from the United Soybean Board. Ashland Specialty Chemicals developed polyester resins that include soy and corn feedstocks, while processors Ashley Industrial Molding and Budd (currently Continental Structural Plastics) worked on the molding side. There were also issues related to painting and mold release.
And it amounts to more than a hill of beans: each combine made with the compound uses 1.1 bushels of soybeans and 0.5 bushels of corn.
To give engineers a better idea of the range of resins and polymers available as alternatives to other materials, this Technology Roundup presents several articles on engineering plastics that can do the job.
The first photos made with a 3D-printed telescope are here and they're not as fuzzy as you might expect. A team from the University of Sheffield beat NASA to the goal. The photos of the Moon were made with a reflecting telescope that cost the research team £100 to make (about $161 US).
A tiny humanoid robot has safely piloted a small plane all the way from cold start to takeoff, landing and coming to a full stop on the plane's designated runway. Yes, it happened in a pilot training simulation -- but the research team isn't far away from doing it in the real world.
Some in the US have welcomed 3D printing for boosting local economies and bringing some offshored manufacturing back onshore. Meanwhile, China is wielding its power of numbers, and its very different relationships between government, education, and industry, to kickstart a homegrown industry.
You can find out practically everything you need to know about engineering plastics as alternatives to other materials at the 2014 IAPD Plastics Expo. Admission is free for engineers, designers, specifiers, and OEMs, as well as students and faculty.
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