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,
A recent report sponsored by the American Chemistry Council (ACC) focuses on emerging gasification technologies for converting waste into energy and fuel on a large scale and saving it from the landfill. Some of that waste includes non-recycled plastic.
Capping a 30-year quest, GE Aviation has broken ground on the first high-volume factory for producing commercial jet engine components from ceramic matrix composites. The plant will produce high-pressure turbine shrouds for the LEAP Turbofan engine.
Seismic shifts in 3D printing materials include an optimization method that reduces the material needed to print an object by 85 percent, research designed to create new, stronger materials, and a new ASTM standard for their mechanical properties.
A recent study finds that 3D printing is both cheaper and greener than traditional factory-based mass manufacturing and distribution. At least, it's true for making consumer plastic products on open-source, low-cost RepRap printers.
For industrial control applications, or even a simple assembly line, that machine can go almost 24/7 without a break. But what happens when the task is a little more complex? That’s where the “smart” machine would come in. The smart machine is one that has some simple (or complex in some cases) processing capability to be able to adapt to changing conditions. Such machines are suited for a host of applications, including automotive, aerospace, defense, medical, computers and electronics, telecommunications, consumer goods, and so on. This discussion will examine what’s possible with smart machines, and what tradeoffs need to be made to implement such a solution.