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.
As the 3D printing and overall additive manufacturing ecosystem grows, standards and guidelines from standards bodies and government organizations are increasing. Multiple players with multiple needs are also driving the role of 3DP and AM as enabling technologies for distributed manufacturing.
A growing though not-so-obvious role for 3D printing, 4D printing, and overall additive manufacturing is their use in fabricating new materials and enabling new or improved manufacturing and assembly processes. Individual engineers, OEMs, university labs, and others are reinventing the technology to suit their own needs.
For vehicles to meet the 2025 Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, three things must happen: customers must look beyond the data sheet and engage materials supplier earlier, and new integrated multi-materials are needed to make step-change improvements.
3D printing, 4D printing, and various types of additive manufacturing (AM) will get even bigger in 2015. We're not talking about consumer use, which gets most of the attention, but processes and technologies that will affect how design engineers design products and how manufacturing engineers make them. For now, the biggest industries are still aerospace and medical, while automotive and architecture continue to grow.
More and more -- that's what we'll see from plastics and composites in 2015, more types of plastics and more ways they can be used. Two of the fastest-growing uses will be automotive parts, plus medical implants and devices. New types of plastics will include biodegradable materials, plastics that can be easily recycled, and some that do both.
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