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.
The new composites manufacturing innovation center is intended to be a source of grand challenges for industry, like the kind that got us to the moon under JFK. These aren't the words its new CEO Craig Blue used, but that's the idea and the vision behind the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation (IACMI).
The 100% solar-powered airplane Solar Impulse 2 is prepping for its upcoming flight, becoming the first plane to fly around the world without using fuel. It's able to do so because of above-average performance by all of the technologies that go into it, especially materials.
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.
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