The word is in: An article in yesterday’s New York Times declares that stainless steel is better than plastic bottles for the environment–if one stainless bottle takes the place of at least 50 plastic bottles. The two writers of the column are developing a software product that conducts lifecycle assessments. They issued their verdict on stainless steel bottles after taking into account the environmental impacts of mining iron ore, chromium, and nickel, transporting them large distances, making the steel, transporting the steel, fabricating the bottles, and so on.
I can’t comment on the quality of the argument because zero data is provided on any of the inputs, and no information at all is provided on the plastic product.Assuming they are correct, however, isn’t this a little strange? Under what circumstances would someone use a stainless steel bottle to drink water? A hike maybe. No, stainless is too heavy. And how does stainless steel get into the recycling stream? Do you take it to a car shredder? What if people re-fill plastic bottles to drink water?
And what about the environmental waste of printing this silliness on half a page of the New York Times and distributing it across North America to a million people?
To give engineers a better idea of the range of resins and polymers available as alternatives to other materials, this Technology Roundup presents several articles on engineering plastics that can do the job.
The first photos made with a 3D-printed telescope are here and they're not as fuzzy as you might expect. A team from the University of Sheffield beat NASA to the goal. The photos of the Moon were made with a reflecting telescope that cost the research team £100 to make (about $161 US).
A tiny humanoid robot has safely piloted a small plane all the way from cold start to takeoff, landing and coming to a full stop on the plane's designated runway. Yes, it happened in a pilot training simulation -- but the research team isn't far away from doing it in the real world.
Some in the US have welcomed 3D printing for boosting local economies and bringing some offshored manufacturing back onshore. Meanwhile, China is wielding its power of numbers, and its very different relationships between government, education, and industry, to kickstart a homegrown industry.
You can find out practically everything you need to know about engineering plastics as alternatives to other materials at the 2014 IAPD Plastics Expo. Admission is free for engineers, designers, specifiers, and OEMs, as well as students and faculty.
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