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 The parts were withdrawn at the last moment because of other engineering concerns.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.
An in-depth survey of 700 current and future users of 3D printing holds few surprises, but results emphasize some major trends already in progress. Two standouts are the big growth in end-use parts and metal additive manufacturing (AM) most respondents expect.
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