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.
A slew of announcements about new materials and design concepts for transportation have come out of several trade shows focusing on plastics, aircraft interiors, heavy trucks, and automotive engineering. A few more announcements have come independent of any trade shows, maybe just because it's spring.
At the JEC Europe 2015 composites show in Paris last month, makers of composite materials, software, and process equipment showed off their latest innovations. This year's show saw some announcements related to automotive applications, but many of the improvements came in the world of aerospace.
The DuPont-sponsored Plastics Industry Trends survey shows engineers want improved performance in a broad range of plastics and better recycling technology. These concerns top even processing enhancements that improve productivity.
Plastics leader SABIC recently announced a global initiative to help its customers take advantage of additive manufacturing (AM) and also advance 3D printing (3DP) technologies in several application areas. The company's plans go way beyond materials, and also include design, processing, and part performance.
A theme that was reflected in several ways at NPE 2015 was the use of 3D printing to assist in, or improve on, injection molding, as well as improvements in 3D printing materials and processes that are making better functional prototypes and end-use parts.
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