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.
Artificially created metamaterials are already appearing in niche applications like electronics, communications, and defense, says a new report from Lux Research. How quickly they become mainstream depends on cost-effective manufacturing methods, which will include additive manufacturing.
SpaceX has 3D printed and successfully hot-fired a SuperDraco engine chamber made of Inconel, a high-performance superalloy, using direct metal laser sintering (DMLS). The company's first 3D-printed rocket engine part, a main oxidizer valve body for the Falcon 9 rocket, launched in January and is now qualified on all Falcon 9 flights.
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and MIT have 3D-printed a new class of metamaterials that are both exceptionally light and have exceptional strength and stiffness. The new metamaterials maintain a nearly constant stiffness per unit of mass density, over three orders of magnitude.
Smart composites that let the material's structural health be monitored automatically and continuously are getting closer to reality. R&D partners in an EU-sponsored project have demonstrated what they say is the first complete, miniaturized, fiber-optic sensor system entirely embedded inside a fiber-reinforced composite.
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