Innovation in manufacturing is a formidable force in today’s industry. From fuel economy breakthroughs to a more efficient process for manufacturing bioplastics, here’s a list of innovations the manufacturing industry has produced recently.
Electric Plane Flies Over English Channel: In a feat reminiscent of Louis Bleriot’s 1909 voyage (the first flight across the English Channel in a heavier than air aircraft), Airbus flew its electric plane across the same channel for the first time on Friday, 7/10/2015. This is a first major step towards making electric planes viable in the long term.
Microchips Get Even Smaller: It’s amazing how something so small can power the hand-held devices that we tote around every day that help us organize our lives, track our fitness levels, help us do business on the go, and even keep us entertained. I’m talking about the microchip. Before we had only managed to make a microprocessor that was 14-nanometers wide. Now, IBM claims that they can create 7 nanometer chips. You’d need about 10,000 of those to get as wide as one strand of human hair. These microchips may help power the next generation of smart phones and wearable computers.
Ralph Lauren’s Polo Tech Shirt: In a major twist on “wearable technology”, the Ralph Lauren Co. is launching the high-performance Polo Tech shirt in 2015. It gathers information about your heart rate, breathing rate, steps taken, calories burned, and time in “the zone”. That information is captured by a “black box” which is actually attached to the shirt (though still removable) and then transmitted to an iOS app. Soon, we could all be wearing these “smart shirts” and tracking our daily activity.
Volvo Replaces Passenger Seat with Backwards Child Seat: In a bold move, Volvo has replaced the passenger seat in it XC90’s luxury concept car into a backwards-facing child seat. They see this as the “next step in redefining how the interior of a car can be used to suit our customers’ needs”. They also state that these innovations “will become increasingly important as we move towards autonomous vehicles”.
Honda Sets Guinness Word Record for Fuel Efficiency: Fuel efficiency is a hot-button topic these days. Whether you believe the answer is in electric cars, or more fuel-efficient gas or diesel-powered vehicles, car manufacturers are on a quest to present the best option. Honda, has just taken a big step towards making a more fuel-efficient diesel-powered vehicle a viable option. Guinness World Records declared the Honda Civic Tourer 1.6 iDTEC the “lowest fuel consumption” in all 24 contiguous EU countries. The car, during the test, reached an average of 100.3 miles per gallon over an 8,387 mile trip. That’s a lot of fuel savings!
Chemists Develop New, Cheaper Process to Make Bioplastic: Bioplastics have been proposed as an alternative to regular plastics. However, the process to make them is controversial as it still produces a lot of waste. Belgian researchers pioneering a new process could enable a cheaper, more efficient conversion of plant materials into bio-based plastics. Their new process converts the Lactic Acid (derived from fermenting maize or sugarcane) directly into the initial components of PLA and skipping the more wasteful middle step. This could lead to producing more PLA without creating additional waste and without the use of metals. The patent has already been sold to a chemical company for implantation on an industrial scale.