So what does it mean to claim a plastic is environmentally friendly? It might mean the material contains recycled plastics or can be easily recycled at the end of its first life. Or it might involve biodegradability. It could also mean the material is derived from feedstocks based on sustainable — agricultural or biological — sources. Plastics suppliers are increasingly pursuing one or more of these environmental strategies as they develop new products. But they have to maintain good mechanical properties and low costs if these eco-friendly polymers are ever to be widely specified by engineers. Three of the newest eco-friendly thermoplastics have properties much like conventional polybutylene-terephthalate (PBT) and just might pass muster with both engineers and environmentalists alike.
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Producing high-quality end-production metal parts with additive manufacturing for applications like aerospace and medical requires very tightly controlled processes and materials. New standards and guidelines for machines and processes, materials, and printed parts are underway from bodies such as ASTM International.
Engineers at the University of San Diego’s Jacobs School of Engineering have designed biobatteries on commercial tattoo paper, with an anode and cathode screen-printed on and modified to harvest energy from lactate in a person’s sweat.
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