Toxic toys were a major story last year. The Chinese toy scare stirred up a lot of new business for wooden toys made in the United States. That feel good story is now getting even a little better. Two American toy manufacturers are rolling out this year toys or games made with “thermoplastic biocomposite compounds”. These compounds are made of waste agricultural products such as discarded rise hulls and recycled plastics held together with patented additives developed by the National Research Council of Canada. The new coupling agents are a powerful moisture absorber that allow a tight bond between the wood fiber and the plastic. The toymakers are Sprig Toys of Fort Collins, CO and Rolco of Kasota, MN. The materials supplier is JER Enviortech International of Vancouver, BC.
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.
3D printing, 4D printing, and various types of additive manufacturing (AM) will get even bigger in 2015. We're not talking about consumer use, which gets most of the attention, but processes and technologies that will affect how design engineers design products and how manufacturing engineers make them. For now, the biggest industries are still aerospace and medical, while automotive and architecture continue to grow.
More and more -- that's what we'll see from plastics and composites in 2015, more types of plastics and more ways they can be used. Two of the fastest-growing uses will be automotive parts, plus medical implants and devices. New types of plastics will include biodegradable materials, plastics that can be easily recycled, and some that do both.
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