Like it or not, design engineers need to get prepared for more environmentally oriented requirements. The newest evidence is an executive order from President George W. Bush that ramps by green requirements for the federal government. One of the six parts of the new order requires federal agencies to improve energy efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions 3% annually through the end of fiscal year 2015. President Bush also wants agency acquisitions to reflect sustainable environmental practices, including acquisition of biobased, environmentally preferable, energy-efficient, water-efficient, and recycled-content products, and use of paper of at least 30% post-consumer fiber content. The requirement on bio-based materials is interesting. Design News plans to look intensively at the potential of bio-based polymers for engineering applications in the April 30 issue. Stay tuned.
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.