Ten Most Popular Innovations of 2015

Man and woman looking at 3D printer

A prosthetic hand for a little boy. A flying video camera. Recycled plastic backpacks with solar lights for school kids.

It’s amazing what plastics can help us do.

We post an “Innovation of the Week” every Friday, celebrating advances in life-saving medical technologies, renewable energy, auto safety, sustainability, 3-D printing, sports equipment… And some just celebrate plain old fun.

Here’s a count down of our ten most popular innovations posted in 2015, based on viewer interest.

  1. Collaborating on a moving gift: March 13, 2015 – Raptor Reloaded. Cyborg Beast. Talon Hand. Super heroes? Absolutely, but of another kind: affordable prosthetic hands and arms. Most of the parts are made from 3-D printed plastics.   Female nurse with a young boy patient
  1. Toys! October 9, 2015 – Which toy will win? The Wiffle Ball? The Super Soaker? Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? Check out the 12 finalists for the 2015 National Toy Hall of Fame—many made possible by plastics.

Boy playing with squirt gun

  1. Camouflaging our soldiers: July 24, 2015 – Can squid help U.S. soldiers? Researchers are developing plastic stickers to render soldiers invisible to infrared detection, using the same protein that squid use to change color.

Silhouette of soldier against green forest background

  1. A flying camera! May 29, 2015 – From UC Berkeley Robotics lab: Lily, a flying video/still camera that tracks your hand- or wrist-held controller—both made with tough, lightweight polycarbonate plastic.

Lily camera drone 

  1. Recycled plastics = backpacks for school kids: January 9, 2015 – Entrepreneurs in rural S. Africa create durable school backpacks from recycled plastics—with a solar light that charges during long walks to school so kids can see and study at home.

Young boy and girl ready for school

  1. Helping us ride the waves: September 4, 2015 – An Aussie manufacturer uses high-density expanded polystyrene foam and carbon fiber to make sleek, award winning, high tech surfboards. One surfing champion calls them “Ferraris.”

Man surfing on pink surfboard

  1. Truck company tools up with 3-D printed plastics: March 20, 2015 – Volvo uses 3-D printed plastic tools on truck assembly line, dramatically slashing time to make tools from 36 days to two! Printing plastic tools is much more cost-effective, too.

Row of multicolored trucks

  1. See through coins! August 28, 2015 – Germany will use plastics to mint partially transparent 5-euro coins in 2016, designed to be more difficult to counterfeit. Some central banks want the coin to replace the banknote.

Hands holding a Euro symbol in front of German flag

  1. I hear that plastics can help: May 22, 2015 – Researchers are developing a tiny biodegradable plastic matrix for releasing medicine into the inner ear to treat hearing problems, e.g., tinnitus, which is prevalent among veterans.

Rendering of human head with ear highlighted in red

And the Innovation of the Week that received the most interest…

  1. Helping generate wind energy: September 18, 2015 – Can a plastic coating designed to mimic owl feathers allow wind turbine speed—and megawatt output—to increase without extra, unwelcome noise? U. of Cambridge researchers think so.

A Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus) flying right at the camera