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 The parts were withdrawn at the last moment because of other engineering concerns.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