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 new compression molding compound material combines the light weight, strength, and rigidity of carbon fibers with the flexibility and lower cost of glass materials in a composite compatible with automotive production.
Plastic bearings are real and millions of them are in use doing heavy-duty jobs we used to think only metals could do. Some of Germany-based igus's bearings are traveling around the world as functional parts in a car to demonstrate what they can do.
Baxter showed off his 2.0-derived moves at ATX West this year. The big red guy still looks pretty much the same, but has some new abilities, mostly due to software. The research robot version is now being used in corporate R&D departments as a design platform.
End-production using 3D printing, including objects made of multiple materials in one pass, is getting closer to reality as we saw on the exhibit floor at the recent Pacific Design & Manufacturing Show.