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.
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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