Japanese OEMs, particularly in the electronics and IT fields, are leading the way on engineering applications for plant-based plastics. The latest: Fujitsu is testing a new polymer that uses caster oil extracted from the seeds of the caster bean. The new polymer is being tested for small components in notebook PCs and for mobile phones. A target application is connector covers. Five years ago, Fujitsu was one of the pioneers, using polymers based on corn-based polylactic acid in the chassis of a notebook PC. The goal of the new polymer, developed with Arkema, is better flexibility.
A self-propelled robot developed by a team of researchers headed by MIT promises to detect leaks quickly and accurately in gas pipelines, eliminating the likelihood of dangerous explosions. The robot may also be useful in water and petroleum pipe leak detection.
Aerojet Rocketdyne has built and successfully hot-fire tested an entire 3D-printed rocket engine. In other news, NASA's 3D-printed rocket engine injectors survived tests generating a record 20,000 pounds of thrust. Some performed equally well or better than welded parts.
Researchers at MIT's d'Arbeloff Laboratory are developing shoulder- and hip-mounted robotic arms to help workers in aircraft manufacturing perform difficult or complex assembly tasks that would normally require two people.
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