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.
An in-depth survey of 700 current and future users of 3D printing holds few surprises, but results emphasize some major trends already in progress. Two standouts are the big growth in end-use parts and metal additive manufacturing (AM) most respondents expect.
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