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.
At the JEC Europe 2015 composites show in Paris last month, makers of composite materials, software, and process equipment showed off their latest innovations. This year's show saw some announcements related to automotive applications, but many of the improvements came in the world of aerospace.
The DuPont-sponsored Plastics Industry Trends survey shows engineers want improved performance in a broad range of plastics and better recycling technology. These concerns top even processing enhancements that improve productivity.
Plastics leader SABIC recently announced a global initiative to help its customers take advantage of additive manufacturing (AM) and also advance 3D printing (3DP) technologies in several application areas. The company's plans go way beyond materials, and also include design, processing, and part performance.
A theme that was reflected in several ways at NPE 2015 was the use of 3D printing to assist in, or improve on, injection molding, as well as improvements in 3D printing materials and processes that are making better functional prototypes and end-use parts.
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