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.
The 100% solar-powered airplane Solar Impulse 2 is prepping for its upcoming flight, becoming the first plane to fly around the world without using fuel. It's able to do so because of above-average performance by all of the technologies that go into it, especially materials.
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.
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