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.”
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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