Plastics prices are soaring right now with a renewed conviction. Until recent years, plastics producers have been more focused on market share than margins. They paid a steep price for that approach, and some big names such as GE, have exited the business. Many are determined to recover every penny of the new, higher costs for hydrocarbons. Huntsman and PolyOne, for example, issued announcements they will hike prices up to 25 and 20 percent, respectively. Interestingly, many suppliers also want to end arrangements that protected big customers. In such cases, price hikes often were delayed for a quarter or longer. Look for companies like Dow Chemical to try to end those practices. Dow’s feedstock and energy bill for the first three months of 2008 was 42 percent higher than the year-earlier quarter.
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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