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).
The new composites manufacturing innovation center is intended to be a source of grand challenges for industry, like the kind that got us to the moon under JFK. These aren't the words its new CEO Craig Blue used, but that's the idea and the vision behind the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation (IACMI).
The 100% solar-powered airplane Solar Impulse 2 is prepping for its upcoming flight, becoming the first plane to fly around the world without using fuel. It's able to do so because of above-average performance by all of the technologies that go into it, especially materials.
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.
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