Metabolix is moving forward with its plans to produce bioengineered polymers from crops other than corn. The Massachusetts company announced it has completed a field trial of tobacco, genetically engineered to “express” polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) biobased polymers. In the Metabloix plan, crops such as switchgrass are bioengineered to create a polymer that grows within the plants’ molecular structure.
Tobacco will not be one of those plants when, and if, the idea goes commercial. “Tobacco was one of the crops they were working with in the lab and they were able to gain field trials,” says a company spokesperson. “They saw it as an opportunity to use it as a test crop to lay the groundwork for planning and permitting activities for field trials in bioengineered, non-food oilseed and biomass crops (such as switchgrass and sugarcane) producing PHA.”
How 3D printing fits into the digital thread, and the relationship between its uses for prototyping and for manufacturing, was the subject of a talk by Proto Labs' Rich Baker at last week's Design & Manufacturing Minneapolis.
How can automakers, aerospace contractors, and other OEMs get new metal alloys that are stronger, harder, and can survive ever higher temperatures? One way is to redesign their crystalline structures at the nanoscale and microscale.
Although a lot of the excitement about 3D printing and additive manufacturing surrounds its ability to make end-products and functional prototypes, some often ignored applications are the big improvements that can come by using it for tooling, jigs, and fixtures.
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