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For Japan's manufacturers, way forward is back to nature

Pristine lotus leaves. (Photo courtesy of Shimizu)

TOKYO -- As fierce industrial competition pushes conventional product development to its limits, Japanese companies are once again taking hints from the world's longest research and development pipeline: evolution.

Biomimetics -- the practice of modeling products on living organisms -- is back in vogue. Creators of everything from construction materials to consumer appliances are searching for new design concepts beyond the confines of the laboratory, studying what birds, insects and plant life have learned over eons.

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