One of Hewlett Packard’s environmental goals is use of biobased plastics. It’s a goal that goes back at least six years, and so far it’s had a rocky path. Efforts to build a printer housing from plant-based went afoul a few years ago. “The first problem we had was the polylacticacid (PLA) we used came from genetically modified crops, and that never could have been used in Europe,” comments John Frey, who chairs Hewlett Packard’s environmental strategies council. “The other problem is that they weren’t really heat stable. I took one of the pilots to a meeting in downtown Houston and then left it in my car. When I came back, the whole shell had caved in around the printer mechanism.” More recently, HP came very close to shipping a notebook with two biobased parts. The parts were withdrawn at the last moment because of other engineering concerns. Frey says HP has its eye on kenaf to see if it can add required stability as a reinforcing material.
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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