NEC is developing shape memory plastics made of plant-based materials for use as wearable electronic products. The new plastic will lose it shape when heated with something as simple as a hair dryer and then will resume its original shape when heated again. The plan is to use the materials for mobile phones that users can form into unique shapes and wear around their wastes. They can be heated again to resume their original shape. NEC also plans to use the shape memory plastics in PCs. If a housing is deformed by heat, it could be returned to its original shape through application of heat. NEC commented that there were efforts to introduce oil-based shape memory plastics to these applications before but they were abandoned because the plastics were not recyclable. NEC first reported its work on bioplastc shape memory products in 2005, and updated Design News this month.
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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