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.
Artificially created metamaterials are already appearing in niche applications like electronics, communications, and defense, says a new report from Lux Research. How quickly they become mainstream depends on cost-effective manufacturing methods, which will include additive manufacturing.
SpaceX has 3D printed and successfully hot-fired a SuperDraco engine chamber made of Inconel, a high-performance superalloy, using direct metal laser sintering (DMLS). The company's first 3D-printed rocket engine part, a main oxidizer valve body for the Falcon 9 rocket, launched in January and is now qualified on all Falcon 9 flights.
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and MIT have 3D-printed a new class of metamaterials that are both exceptionally light and have exceptional strength and stiffness. The new metamaterials maintain a nearly constant stiffness per unit of mass density, over three orders of magnitude.
Smart composites that let the material's structural health be monitored automatically and continuously are getting closer to reality. R&D partners in an EU-sponsored project have demonstrated what they say is the first complete, miniaturized, fiber-optic sensor system entirely embedded inside a fiber-reinforced composite.
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