One of the big stories at this week’s National Plastics Exposition in Chicago is the evolution of America’s plastics industry. These are my first thoughts based on a press conference this morning at the Sabic Innovative Plastics booth. Sabic IP was formed in 2007 when Sabic acquired GE Plastics, one of the original plastics companies in the world with the development of phenolic housings for radios. Dan Fox, who worked with a young chemical engineer named Jack Welch, invented polycarbonate at GE. Charles Crew, CEO of Sabic IP, announced today that the company is launching a program called “One Sabic”. The company will sell a range of Sabic products, which could range from polyethylene to metals. “We’re going to start with glass-filled polypropylene for the automotive market,” Crew said in a response to a question from Design News. That move makes a lot of sense because of the high growth rates for polyolefins in auto applications from bumpers to interior components. Filled PP is a highly engineered material that fits the Sabic IP portfolio well. But it’s also a sea change from the standard operating procedure of the old GE Plastics, which at one time publicly denigrated lower level materials.Sabic, of course, is a major producer of polyethylene and polypropylene in Saudia Arabia, where it has a highly advantaged feedstock cost structure. It certainly makes sense for Sabic to use the former GE Plastics unit to market its whole portfolio. The decision, I’m sure though, was not an easy one. Mohamed H. Al-Mady, Sabic CEO, also said at the press conference: “Our strategy for selling polyme s in America is still evolving.”
A self-propelled robot developed by a team of researchers headed by MIT promises to detect leaks quickly and accurately in gas pipelines, eliminating the likelihood of dangerous explosions. The robot may also be useful in water and petroleum pipe leak detection.
Aerojet Rocketdyne has built and successfully hot-fire tested an entire 3D-printed rocket engine. In other news, NASA's 3D-printed rocket engine injectors survived tests generating a record 20,000 pounds of thrust. Some performed equally well or better than welded parts.
Researchers at MIT's d'Arbeloff Laboratory are developing shoulder- and hip-mounted robotic arms to help workers in aircraft manufacturing perform difficult or complex assembly tasks that would normally require two people.
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