Here’s a switch on the whole global outsourcing trend: a Canadian custom compounder called JER Envirotech is closing compounding capacity in Malaysia and the Philippines and moving the equipment to Greenville, SC. CEO Ed Trueman told Design News in an interview that development of infrastructure at the Asian sites was difficult, and the company needs a rapid ramp-up in capacity to meet skyrocketing demand for its new wood-plastic biocomposite that is already being molded for application in toys and car trim. One compounding line will open in South Carolina by the end of the year to supplement three lines already operating in Delta, British Columbia. JER expects to add capacity in South Carolina in 2009. One hot new market is biocomposite sheet that is replacing plywood for chicken coops made by a Pennsylvania company. The JER product contains no toxic chemicals (unlike plywood) and may find a huge market in the construction industry. Other types of wood composites are already used for decking and some other building applications. JER uses a new, proprietary formula that started with a material patented by the National Research Council of Canada.
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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