A new bathroom scale from Tanita is powered with solar cells
and is made from a new biobased plastic.
Tanita introduced solar-powered scales in 1986, but the
plastic is all new. "The addition of ABS plastic using biodegradable resins as
the primary construction material is an added bonus for our green consumers,
further protecting our environment and landfills," says Heather Bundgaard,
director of marketing, Tanita Corp. of America.
The new material, which was developed in Japan by
Unitika, is said to have improved properties in areas such as moldability,
transparency and flame retardancy. Called Terramac,
the plastic has thermal properties, durability and impact resistivity
comparable to ABS resins, a crossover plastic between commodities and
The first product made with the resin is the housing for the
bathroom scale HS-302,
nicknamed ECO Living, The pitch is that the Terramac resin decreased carbon
dioxide emissions 20 percent compared with the previous housing made only with
a petroleum-based plastic.
Unitika developed the first commercially available
heat-resistant PLA sheet in 2002. Flame retardance and impact resistance were
improved by applying Unitika's nanotechnology, plant-based reinforcements, and inorganic
fillers. Various polymer alloys further improve properties of the new material.
Unitika says it will expand this new alloy to toys and
electronic products. Also coming are films, sheets, fibers, and non-wovens. The
company's sales target for the new material is Â¥80 million ($875,000) by 2011.
One candidate as an alloying material is a new thermally
conductive nylon developed by Unitika Up until recently, compounds with
thermally conductive fillers were used to dissipate heat in miniature
electronic devices, but their processability is generally poor. "We often find difficulty in applying them
for small-size molding," says a Unitika spokesperson. "We have studied polymer
structure, the filler(s), and compounding conditions to clear the hurdle."
Unitika says the new nylon shows the same processability as
60 percent glass-reinforced nylon resin, while also exhibiting 50 W/mK thermal
The Unitika Group started in 1889, with the founding of
Amagasaki Spinners, the first company in Japan's textile industry. One of
its early plastic products was Emblem, a biaxially oriented nylon 6 film.
In this new Design News feature, "How it Works," we’re starting off by examining the inner workings of the electronic cigarette. While e-cigarettes seemed like a gimmick just two or three years ago, they’re catching fire -- so to speak. Sales topped $1 billion last year and are set to hit $10 billion by 2017. Cigarette companies are fighting back by buying up e-cigarette manufacturers.
Microchip recently released the 3D TouchPad, the first USB PC Peripheral device that couples 2D multi-touch input with 3D air gesture technology. The company seeks the help of developers to further enhance the capabilities of the technology.
To give engineers a better idea of the range of resins and polymers available as alternatives to other materials, this Technology Roundup presents several articles on engineering plastics that can do the job.
Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.