NEC will begin using a bioplastic hybrid to make housings for its personal computers this year. The move marks a major increase in its use of the materials from renewable resources. Since 2004, NEC has tested the material in “dummy cards” which are inserted in the memory card slot of a PC at the time of purchase. The NEC polymer is made from polylactic acid and kenaf fiber. NEC had hoped to introduce the material to PCs last year, but was delayed waiting for development of an environmentally safe flame retardant. Composition of the material is 90% biomass. “It is biodegradable, but the speed is considerably low because the molecular structure is modified to improve its durability,” an NEC spokesperson told Design News. The cost of the resin has been able about double oil-based plastics in the relatively small lots used so far for applications such as mobile phones. The NEC development goes way beyond technology in North America, where focus has been on disposable packaging. For example, NEC coupled the bioplastics with flame retardants made from metalhydroxides and other materials.
Dow Chemical and several other companies have launched a program in Omaha, Neb. to divert about 36 tons of plastics from landfills in its first phase, and convert it into energy used for cement production.
A make-your-own Star Wars Sith Lightsaber hilt is heftier and better-looking than most others out there, according to its maker, Sean Charlesworth. You can 3D print it from free source files, and there's even a hardware kit available -- not free -- so you can build one just in time for Halloween.
Some next-generation bio-based materials are superior in performance to their petro-based counterparts, but also face some commercial challenges. This is especially true of certain biopolymers, adhesives, coatings, and advanced materials.
Cars and other vehicles, as well as electronics and medical devices, continue to lead the use cases for the new plastics products we've been seeing, as engineers design products for tougher environments.
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