The best hope for new bioplastics is to find niche applications where they fill a technical need. One great new example comes out of Cornell University, where research set up a company called Novomer to develop plastics made from carbon dioxide and cirtus fruits. Aliphatic polycarbonates (APCs) made from the process are biodegradable, biocompatible, are optically clear and provide high oxygen and water barrier. They’re also quite pricey – say $50 a pound an up.
Novomer today announced its first commercial product — NB-180, a poly(propylene carbonate) (PPC) sacrificial binder that burns cleaner, more uniformly and at lower temperatures than currently available products. Sacrificial binders provide mechanical strength to ensure uniform consistency, solidification or adhesion during manufacturing processes. Application areas are extremely broad and include advanced ceramics, microelectronics, nanotechnology, metal brazing and fuel cells. It’s aimed at assembly of micro- and nano-scale devices.
Fox Holt, product manager for Novomer says there are no plans yet to use the material as a sacrificial binder in powder injection molding – a mass market where it could really achieve some volume.
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.
If there's one thing 3D printing's good for, it's customization. New Balance Athletic Shoe Company has begun using 3D printing to make customized spike plates for its running shoes made for members of its Team New Balance runners. They provide better traction and shave off a tiny bit of weight.
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