Hefty steel price increases will accelerate the shift to aluminum and other light weight materials in automobiles. News that Japanese steelmakers agreed to a 65 percent hike in iron ore prices is causing alarm at large Japanese automakers. “The consumer won’t accept price increases,” Honda President Takeo Fukui says. “We may see a quicker shift to aluminum.” Analysts estimate that Japanese car makers will pay $1.9 billion more for steel in the coming year than in the past year. Research departments at the car companies accelerated efforts to light weight future vehicles even before iron ore contracts exploded. Fukui began at Honda in 1969 as an engineer.
How 3D printing fits into the digital thread, and the relationship between its uses for prototyping and for manufacturing, was the subject of a talk by Proto Labs' Rich Baker at last week's Design & Manufacturing Minneapolis.
How can automakers, aerospace contractors, and other OEMs get new metal alloys that are stronger, harder, and can survive ever higher temperatures? One way is to redesign their crystalline structures at the nanoscale and microscale.
Although a lot of the excitement about 3D printing and additive manufacturing surrounds its ability to make end-products and functional prototypes, some often ignored applications are the big improvements that can come by using it for tooling, jigs, and fixtures.
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