I’ve been highly critical of “greenwashing” in this space where companies make environmental claims for their products that are often half-baked. I came across an effort today by Herman Miller, however, that is very impressive. Design engineers at the Michigan office furniture manufacturer have adopted cradle-to-cradle, a design protocol that advocates the elimination of waste by recycling a material or product into a new or similar product at the end of its intended life, rather than disposing of it. There are three fundamental components: 1) eliminate hazardous material chemistries, 2) design for disassembly, and 3) use recycled content to the extent possible. Some materials on the Herman Miller “hit” list are: formaldehyde-based particleboard, fiberglass, antimony oxides, PVC, some metal finishes, halogens and fluorochemicals. Wow. In some cases, Herman Miller is actively lobbying producers to make changes. The company has a great environmental glossary on its Web site.
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.