I have never been a big fan of biodegradable plastics, primarily because of what I consider bogus marketing. There is no environmental advantage to biodegradable packaging unless you’re the type who throws wrappers out of your car window. Properly run landfills are anaerobic. That is, they have no air or water because material degradation is an environmental problem. Chemicals leach into aquifers or form methane gases that contribute to global warming.
A company called Green Toys is now launching toys made from biodegradable plastic. Their pitch is simple and fair: plastics made from corn or potatoes use less energy to produce than plastics made from oil. There is no documentation of that claim on their Web site, however, and there should be because fuel made from corn (ethanol) may consume more petroleum than it saves. Furthermore, Green Toys use biodegradable colorants supplied by PolyOne Corp. That sounds like a real winner.
Green Toys also uses packaging made from recycled materials. Again another real score.
How 3D printing fits into the digital thread, and the relationship between its uses for prototyping and for manufacturing, was the subject of a talk by Proto Labs' Rich Baker at last week's Design & Manufacturing Minneapolis.
How can automakers, aerospace contractors, and other OEMs get new metal alloys that are stronger, harder, and can survive ever higher temperatures? One way is to redesign their crystalline structures at the nanoscale and microscale.
Although a lot of the excitement about 3D printing and additive manufacturing surrounds its ability to make end-products and functional prototypes, some often ignored applications are the big improvements that can come by using it for tooling, jigs, and fixtures.
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