I wrote last year about the potential for growing use of wood-plastic composites in car design. Now comes word that bamboo-reinforced bioplastic may make its commercial debut in the interiors of Mitsubishi’s iMiEV Sport Air electric vehicle in 2010. Mitsubishi would not confirm the roll-out date, which has been rumored on car blogs. It’s no secret though tat Mitsubishi has been working on bamboo-reinforced bioplastic for at least four years. The Japanese OEM cuts bamboos into strips, removing the joints and then crushes them. Then hot steam is used to loosen the fibers, making it fit as a reinforcement. The bamboo will be reinforcing a novel bioplastic called PBS (polybutylene succinate) resins, which is derived from succinic acid and corn starch.
According to Mitsubishi’s tests, PBS/bamboo-fiber compound achieves an estimated 50% reduction in lifecycle carbon dioxide emissions over polypropylene. VOC (volatile organic compounds) levels are also reduced drastically over processed wood hardboards (roughly 85% in testing).
To give engineers a better idea of the range of resins and polymers available as alternatives to other materials, this Technology Roundup presents several articles on engineering plastics that can do the job.
The first photos made with a 3D-printed telescope are here and they're not as fuzzy as you might expect. A team from the University of Sheffield beat NASA to the goal. The photos of the Moon were made with a reflecting telescope that cost the research team £100 to make (about $161 US).
A tiny humanoid robot has safely piloted a small plane all the way from cold start to takeoff, landing and coming to a full stop on the plane's designated runway. Yes, it happened in a pilot training simulation -- but the research team isn't far away from doing it in the real world.
Some in the US have welcomed 3D printing for boosting local economies and bringing some offshored manufacturing back onshore. Meanwhile, China is wielding its power of numbers, and its very different relationships between government, education, and industry, to kickstart a homegrown industry.
You can find out practically everything you need to know about engineering plastics as alternatives to other materials at the 2014 IAPD Plastics Expo. Admission is free for engineers, designers, specifiers, and OEMs, as well as students and faculty.
Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.