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.”
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.
3D printing, 4D printing, and various types of additive manufacturing (AM) will get even bigger in 2015. We're not talking about consumer use, which gets most of the attention, but processes and technologies that will affect how design engineers design products and how manufacturing engineers make them. For now, the biggest industries are still aerospace and medical, while automotive and architecture continue to grow.
More and more -- that's what we'll see from plastics and composites in 2015, more types of plastics and more ways they can be used. Two of the fastest-growing uses will be automotive parts, plus medical implants and devices. New types of plastics will include biodegradable materials, plastics that can be easily recycled, and some that do both.
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