One of the hot trends on college campuses right now is a higher level of environmental consciousness in cafeterias, once plagued by wasteful food fights. The Sustainable Endowments Institute says that 42 percent of the schools it surveyed have cut back on use of trays, and in some cases totally eliminated them. One college estimates it has saved 14,000 gallons of water by eliminating use of trays at just one dining hall. Details can be viewed at the College Sustainability Report Card. There has also been a drop in food waste, based on the theory that people toted more when they had a tray. There’s also a trend to use of biodegradable plates and utensils, which can be thrown in a composter with food waste. Gosh, I remember when we first started using fiberglass trays in the 1950s. They were cool. Now they’re not. I also remember when I scoffed at the idea of using composters to get rid of waste. I have one now in my backyard. But I haven’t stooped to using biodegradable plates and utensils-yet.
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.
More and more -- that's what we'll see from plastics and composites in 2015, more types of plastics and more ways they can be used. Two of the fastest-growing uses will be automotive parts, plus medical implants and devices. New types of plastics will include biodegradable materials, plastics that can be easily recycled, and some that do both.
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