Certainly Apple has proved that one of the not-to-be-neglected advantages of aluminum is that, used correctly, it looks great and also gives the product a feeling of (for want of a better word) class. The polished aluminum highlights Apple uses as well as the thick, solid billets out of which the base of some of their laptops is formed are, I'd submit, a competitive advantage and constitute a big part of the appeal of their products.
Doug, your final question about whether this is a marketing gimmick or an advancement is a good one. It's hard to tell sometimes. What's clear is the design engineer is in the position to have to make these calls. The design engineer remains on the front line of environmental compliance, and it's becoming an ever growing part of the job.
New versions of BASF's Ecovio line are both compostable and designed for either injection molding or thermoforming. These combinations are becoming more common for the single-use bioplastics used in food service and food packaging applications, but are still not widely available.
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 radio show will show what’s possible with smart machines, and what tradeoffs need to be made to implement such a solution.