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.
To give engineers a better idea of the range of resins and polymers available as alternatives to other materials, this Technology Roundup presents several articles on engineering plastics that can do the job.
The first photos made with a 3D-printed telescope are here and they're not as fuzzy as you might expect. A team from the University of Sheffield beat NASA to the goal. The photos of the Moon were made with a reflecting telescope that cost the research team £100 to make (about $161 US).
A tiny humanoid robot has safely piloted a small plane all the way from cold start to takeoff, landing and coming to a full stop on the plane's designated runway. Yes, it happened in a pilot training simulation -- but the research team isn't far away from doing it in the real world.
Some in the US have welcomed 3D printing for boosting local economies and bringing some offshored manufacturing back onshore. Meanwhile, China is wielding its power of numbers, and its very different relationships between government, education, and industry, to kickstart a homegrown industry.
You can find out practically everything you need to know about engineering plastics as alternatives to other materials at the 2014 IAPD Plastics Expo. Admission is free for engineers, designers, specifiers, and OEMs, as well as students and faculty.
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