There have been major moves under way to improve bottle design. Triggered by huge price hikes for plastics last year, the first trend features thin-walling, which is also a green improvement. A process refinement enabled a 19 percent weight reduction, saving over three million pounds of plastic annually in a Kraft salad dressing bottle. The optimized bottle design increased shipping efficiencies by 18 percent by allowing a greater number of bottles shipped per truckload. There has been an explosion in bottle thin walling in the past 18 months.
There has also been a huge improvement in the use of recycled PET in bottles. One of the leaders is Coca-Cola, which is developing a joint venture plant in South Carolina to produce food-grade recyclate. Capacity of the plant will be one billion pounds/yr, with half of the capacity being used by Coke and other half sold to external blow molders. Virtually all of the raw materials will be coming from municipal recycling programs. Coca-Cola Co. said it will boost recycled content of its PET bottles to 10 percent by the end of 2010 and 25 percent by 2015. Coke had reached 10 percent recycled content in North America in 2004 and 2005, but the level slipped to 3 percent or less. Coke’s wants to keep recycled material cost neutral with virgin PET. There is so much demand now for recycled PET that there actually is a shortage of supply.
An MIT research team has invented what they see as a solution to the need for biodegradable 3D-printable materials made from something besides petroleum-based sources: a water-based robotic additive extrusion method that makes objects from biodegradable hydrogel composites.
Alcoa has unveiled a new manufacturing and materials technology for making aluminum sheet, aimed especially at automotive, industrial, and packaging applications. If all its claims are true, this is a major breakthrough, and may convince more automotive engineers to use aluminum.
NASA has just installed a giant robot to help in its research on composite aerospace materials, like those used for the Orion spacecraft. The agency wants to shave the time it takes to get composites through design, test, and manufacturing stages.
The European Space Agency (ESA) is working with architects Foster + Partners to test the possibility of using lunar regolith, or moon rocks, and 3D printing to make structures for use on the moon. A new video shows some cool animations of a hypothetical lunar mission that carries out this vision.
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