K 2010–a plastics trade fair– opened today in Dusseldorf Germany. Based on the amount of green clothing worn throughout the show, visitors may think they are in Boston on St. Patrick’s Day. Green ties and shirts are very fashionable at this year’s giant K Fair. It seems almost every supplier here wants to show they are committed to “green” plastics technology.
Even Sabic, the giant Saudi Arabian petrochemicals company, announced at an opening press conference that it has begun a major sustainability initiative that may even include an expanded role for plastics made from renewable resources. Mohamed Al-Mady, CEO of SABIC, said the company has begun collaborations with universities to explore potential renewably sourced feedstocks. One project is expected to focus on algae at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), a new technical university in Saudi Arabia. In another interesting development, officers at Sabic Innovative Polymers, which is based in Pittsfield, MA, say they are now verifying weight-saving and environmental claims with a third-party auditor called Green Order, which is based in New York City.
For example, Sabic has a new design for an all-plastic steering wheel on its stand (an industry first), which appears to reduce carbon dioxide emissions 80 percent compared to a wheel made with diecast magnesium, according to a Sabic official. That number will be tested and verified by Green Order. ”We are going to verify the environmental benefits of products in one of two ways,” Robert McKay, newly named sustainability manager at Sabic Innovative Plastics, said in an interview with Design News at K 2010. “Either they meet one or more widely recognized sustainability standards or their environmental benefits relative to incumbent technologies will be verified under the company’s new Sustainable Product Scorecard.”
Artificially created metamaterials are already appearing in niche applications like electronics, communications, and defense, says a new report from Lux Research. How quickly they become mainstream depends on cost-effective manufacturing methods, which will include additive manufacturing.
SpaceX has 3D printed and successfully hot-fired a SuperDraco engine chamber made of Inconel, a high-performance superalloy, using direct metal laser sintering (DMLS). The company's first 3D-printed rocket engine part, a main oxidizer valve body for the Falcon 9 rocket, launched in January and is now qualified on all Falcon 9 flights.
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and MIT have 3D-printed a new class of metamaterials that are both exceptionally light and have exceptional strength and stiffness. The new metamaterials maintain a nearly constant stiffness per unit of mass density, over three orders of magnitude.
Smart composites that let the material's structural health be monitored automatically and continuously are getting closer to reality. R&D partners in an EU-sponsored project have demonstrated what they say is the first complete, miniaturized, fiber-optic sensor system entirely embedded inside a fiber-reinforced composite.
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