Mirel bioplastic performs well as a film when annealed for two to three seconds after processing. New data on the PHB polymer was presented at the opening of the Annual Technical Conference (ANTEC) of the Society of Plastics Engineers in Boston today by Ray Krishnaswamy of Metabolix, the technology startup behind Mirel. Annealing relaxes stresses in noncrystalline chain segments, dramatically improving tear properties. Annealing equipment that could be used commercially includes IR heaters, embossing stations, or annealing roll stands. “We could build this for you for $1,000,” said to a large audience at the Fundamentals & Fellows Forum. Future research opportunities for bioplastics include controlling the rate of biodegradtion, controlling crystallization, improving thermal stability, exploring blends, and education.
Alcoa has unveiled a new manufacturing and materials technology for making aluminum sheet, aimed especially at automotive, industrial, and packaging applications. If all its claims are true, this is a major breakthrough, and may convince more automotive engineers to use aluminum.
NASA has just installed a giant robot to help in its research on composite aerospace materials, like those used for the Orion spacecraft. The agency wants to shave the time it takes to get composites through design, test, and manufacturing stages.
The European Space Agency (ESA) is working with architects Foster + Partners to test the possibility of using lunar regolith, or moon rocks, and 3D printing to make structures for use on the moon. A new video shows some cool animations of a hypothetical lunar mission that carries out this vision.
If there's one thing 3D printing's good for, it's customization. New Balance Athletic Shoe Company has begun using 3D printing to make customized spike plates for its running shoes made for members of its Team New Balance runners. They provide better traction and shave off a tiny bit of weight.
Two teams, one based in the US and one in Europe, have 3D printed space-worthy support structures for satellite antenna arrays. These aren't prototypes: they're fully functioning antenna supports that will operate while exposed to the harsh temperatures and radiation of outer space.
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