Use of bioabsorbable polymers as a medical device is moving to what I think is an amazing new level. Abbott vascular announced successful initial tests of a full bioabsorbable stent used to prop open diseased coronary arteries. The device is called ABSORB because it is completely absorbed back into the body after it restores blood flow, and the blood vessel heals. Six month results for the first 30 patients in the Abbott trial showed similar rates of success as metal stents. The new stent is made of polylactic acid, which is widely used in dissolvable sutures and anchor screws. Engineers in Japan are also rapidly developing mechanical applications for PLA.
A new compression molding compound material combines the light weight, strength, and rigidity of carbon fibers with the flexibility and lower cost of glass materials in a composite compatible with automotive production.
Plastic bearings are real and millions of them are in use doing heavy-duty jobs we used to think only metals could do. Some of Germany-based igus's bearings are traveling around the world as functional parts in a car to demonstrate what they can do.
Baxter showed off his 2.0-derived moves at ATX West this year. The big red guy still looks pretty much the same, but has some new abilities, mostly due to software. The research robot version is now being used in corporate R&D departments as a design platform.
End-production using 3D printing, including objects made of multiple materials in one pass, is getting closer to reality as we saw on the exhibit floor at the recent Pacific Design & Manufacturing Show.