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 The parts were withdrawn at the last moment because of other engineering concerns.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.
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.