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.
A self-propelled robot developed by a team of researchers headed by MIT promises to detect leaks quickly and accurately in gas pipelines, eliminating the likelihood of dangerous explosions. The robot may also be useful in water and petroleum pipe leak detection.
Aerojet Rocketdyne has built and successfully hot-fire tested an entire 3D-printed rocket engine. In other news, NASA's 3D-printed rocket engine injectors survived tests generating a record 20,000 pounds of thrust. Some performed equally well or better than welded parts.
Researchers at MIT's d'Arbeloff Laboratory are developing shoulder- and hip-mounted robotic arms to help workers in aircraft manufacturing perform difficult or complex assembly tasks that would normally require two people.
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