What price premium will you pay for bioplastics? In general, look for a premium of 20 to 30 percent above what you now pay for a comparable material. That’s an artificial figure, but it’s what OEMs think customers will pay for the environmental friendliness plus the enhanced properties some of these grades will have.I say artificial, because seemingly like all things that overcome our “energy” or “global warming” crisis (pick your decade) costs will be very high until there is economy of scale. And economy of scale for plastics is huge. American OEMs that have been leaders in this field, such as John Deere, have not pursued bio materials for economic reasons. They pursued them for political reasons. Deere, for example, wanted to support its farmer-customers, particularly in the soybean area, where grants were available.
Alcoa has unveiled a new manufacturing and materials technology for making aluminum sheet, aimed especially at automotive, industrial, and packaging applications. If all its claims are true, this is a major breakthrough, and may convince more automotive engineers to use aluminum.
NASA has just installed a giant robot to help in its research on composite aerospace materials, like those used for the Orion spacecraft. The agency wants to shave the time it takes to get composites through design, test, and manufacturing stages.
The European Space Agency (ESA) is working with architects Foster + Partners to test the possibility of using lunar regolith, or moon rocks, and 3D printing to make structures for use on the moon. A new video shows some cool animations of a hypothetical lunar mission that carries out this vision.
If there's one thing 3D printing's good for, it's customization. New Balance Athletic Shoe Company has begun using 3D printing to make customized spike plates for its running shoes made for members of its Team New Balance runners. They provide better traction and shave off a tiny bit of weight.
Two teams, one based in the US and one in Europe, have 3D printed space-worthy support structures for satellite antenna arrays. These aren't prototypes: they're fully functioning antenna supports that will operate while exposed to the harsh temperatures and radiation of outer space.
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