Plastics remain the bane of many environmentalists, but aspiring venture capitalists seem to see polymers in a different light. Two of the top four finishers in this year’s Rice University Business Plan Competition focus on plastics. The winners get star treatment in the current issue of Fortune Magazine in a section headlined “Venture”.
The first place finisher is a new pharmaceutical and number two is an Internet tool for human authentication. And at number three is a project called PK Clean from two students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Their intriguing idea? Conversion of plastic waste into diesel fuel. That should stop all the trash talk about plastics.
At the fourth spot is a project called cyclewood Plastics from a student team at the University of Arkansas. These students have developed a marketing plan for a biodegradable plastic bag made from a byproduct of paper production. OK. That one sounds like a pretty well tried-and tested idea. Many companies are now selling biodegradable plastic bags from a variety or renewable feedstocks. The one edge for cyclewood is use of a waste byproduct in a technology developed at the University of Minnesota. And who knows–maybe their bags will degrade faster than the competition!
Dealing with plastic bag disposal has been the bane of the retail existence for a long time. In retail, we had seen recyclable bags in the past, but they would stick together causing significant waste. The new generation seems to have better success but do not do well in hot environments or storage.
A recent report sponsored by the American Chemistry Council (ACC) focuses on emerging gasification technologies for converting waste into energy and fuel on a large scale and saving it from the landfill. Some of that waste includes non-recycled plastic.
Capping a 30-year quest, GE Aviation has broken ground on the first high-volume factory for producing commercial jet engine components from ceramic matrix composites. The plant will produce high-pressure turbine shrouds for the LEAP Turbofan engine.
Seismic shifts in 3D printing materials include an optimization method that reduces the material needed to print an object by 85 percent, research designed to create new, stronger materials, and a new ASTM standard for their mechanical properties.
A recent study finds that 3D printing is both cheaper and greener than traditional factory-based mass manufacturing and distribution. At least, it's true for making consumer plastic products on open-source, low-cost RepRap printers.
For industrial control applications, or even a simple assembly line, that machine can go almost 24/7 without a break. But what happens when the task is a little more complex? That’s where the “smart” machine would come in. The smart machine is one that has some simple (or complex in some cases) processing capability to be able to adapt to changing conditions. Such machines are suited for a host of applications, including automotive, aerospace, defense, medical, computers and electronics, telecommunications, consumer goods, and so on. This discussion will examine what’s possible with smart machines, and what tradeoffs need to be made to implement such a solution.