One of the best stories at K 2007 is the effort under way at SABIC Innovative Plastics to develop new technologies that reduce use of oil and natural gas. Yes, that’s the Saudi Arabian Basic Industries Corp., partly owned by the Saudi Arabian government. SABIC Innovative Polymers is the former GE Plastics, and just became part of SABIC earlier this fall. The company is known for its application development work, and its newest development center is aimed at new ideas in energy. One of the three big projects under way is a new concept in photovoltaic cells. The SABIC unit is developing new polycarbonate chemistries that could amplify the energy-producing power of silicon used at the heart of solar cells. In interviews with Design News this morning, three SABIC executives described the effect as a “kind of light pipe”. Polycarbonate in existing solar cells simply protects the silicon with a transparent shield. The new polycarbonate would also boost the efficiency of the cell. No data on efficiency levels are available now. Rick Pontillo, general manager of global application technology, told Design News the concept could go commercial in two years if it proves out. Work began two years ago on the project, and SABIC officials are said to solidly support it.
A new compression molding compound material combines the light weight, strength, and rigidity of carbon fibers with the flexibility and lower cost of glass materials in a composite compatible with automotive production.
Plastic bearings are real and millions of them are in use doing heavy-duty jobs we used to think only metals could do. Some of Germany-based igus's bearings are traveling around the world as functional parts in a car to demonstrate what they can do.
Baxter showed off his 2.0-derived moves at ATX West this year. The big red guy still looks pretty much the same, but has some new abilities, mostly due to software. The research robot version is now being used in corporate R&D departments as a design platform.
End-production using 3D printing, including objects made of multiple materials in one pass, is getting closer to reality as we saw on the exhibit floor at the recent Pacific Design & Manufacturing Show.