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).
Alcoa has unveiled a new manufacturing and materials technology for making aluminum sheet, aimed especially at automotive, industrial, and packaging applications. If all its claims are true, this is a major breakthrough, and may convince more automotive engineers to use aluminum.
NASA has just installed a giant robot to help in its research on composite aerospace materials, like those used for the Orion spacecraft. The agency wants to shave the time it takes to get composites through design, test, and manufacturing stages.
The European Space Agency (ESA) is working with architects Foster + Partners to test the possibility of using lunar regolith, or moon rocks, and 3D printing to make structures for use on the moon. A new video shows some cool animations of a hypothetical lunar mission that carries out this vision.
If there's one thing 3D printing's good for, it's customization. New Balance Athletic Shoe Company has begun using 3D printing to make customized spike plates for its running shoes made for members of its Team New Balance runners. They provide better traction and shave off a tiny bit of weight.
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