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.
An MIT research team has invented what they see as a solution to the need for biodegradable 3D-printable materials made from something besides petroleum-based sources: a water-based robotic additive extrusion method that makes objects from biodegradable hydrogel composites.
Alcoa has unveiled a new manufacturing and materials technology for making aluminum sheet, aimed especially at automotive, industrial, and packaging applications. If all its claims are true, this is a major breakthrough, and may convince more automotive engineers to use aluminum.
NASA has just installed a giant robot to help in its research on composite aerospace materials, like those used for the Orion spacecraft. The agency wants to shave the time it takes to get composites through design, test, and manufacturing stages.
The European Space Agency (ESA) is working with architects Foster + Partners to test the possibility of using lunar regolith, or moon rocks, and 3D printing to make structures for use on the moon. A new video shows some cool animations of a hypothetical lunar mission that carries out this vision.
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