The idea of environmental lifecycle assessments is a good one.It provides the potential for engineers and consumers to make educated decisions about which products really are good or bad for the environment. Case in point: When environmental activists sought bans on foamed cups used for coffee, they were clearly barking up the wrong tree. A Canadian lifecycle assessment showed that foamed plastic cups had much less effect on the environment than the paper cups that were ushered in. Not that the study did a lot of good. Foamed cups are still pariahs, and adding insult to injury, many people used double paper cups to get the insulation value of a single foamed cup.
Now there’s a new head scratcher.
The American Christmas Tree Association, which represents producers of artificial trees, has released a report contending “that a consumer using an average artificial Christmas tree has a significantly smaller carbon footprint than a consumer using average farm-grown Christmas trees.” Facts were compared on most commonly sold 6-foot artificial Christmas tree, manufactured in China, to 6-foot real Christmas trees grown locally in the United States. The report on the group’s Web site lacks details, but I assume the study is based on a 10-year use of an artificial tree. Presumably, the study assumes real trees are trucked in from some remote location to an urban location. That happens 10 times. And then the consumer drives to and from the retail store selling the trees 10 times. OK. Maybe. But what about the carbon dioxide sequestration value of those ten trees?
What’s even weirder is that the artificial trees are made from PVC. Most design engineers are being told to avoid use of PVC because of potential dioxin effects when it’s incinerated.
The American Christmas Tree Association gets my Chutzpah of the Year Award,
Many of the new adhesives we're featuring in this slideshow are for use in automotive and other transportation applications. The rest of these new products are for a wide variety of applications including aviation, aerospace, electrical motors, electronics, industrial, and semiconductors.
A Columbia University team working on molecular-scale nano-robots with moving parts has run into wear-and-tear issues. They've become the first team to observe in detail and quantify this process, and are devising coping strategies by observing how living cells prevent aging.
Many of the new materials on display at MD&M West were developed to be strong, tough replacements for metal parts in different kinds of medical equipment: IV poles, connectors for medical devices, medical device trays, and torque-applying instruments for orthopedic surgery. Others are made for close contact with patients.
New sensor technology integrates sensors, traces, and electronics into a smart fabric for wearables that measures more dimensions -- force, location, size, twist, bend, stretch, and motion -- and displays data in 3D maps.
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.