Toyota Motors and Mitsubishi Motors are pushing the envelope on lightweight car design with new concept cars introduced at the Tokyo Motor Show this week. The Toyota 1/X hybrid weighs 67 per cent less than Prius due to its use of carbon fiber composites in its body, yet has more interior space. Composites previously used in auto car bodies have much heavier glass reinforcement. Carbon fiber reinforced composites, also widely used in the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, weigh 40 percent less than glass-reinforced composites. Toray, the world’s leading supplier of carbon fiber prepregs, is reportedly studying a new production plant just for automotive demand. The Mitsubishi i-MiEV (electric vehicle) uses an aluminum suspension and frame. It weighs just one-third what a steel suspension and frame weighs.
Siemens and Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology have achieved a faster production process based on selective laser melting for speeding up the prototyping of big, complex metal parts in gas turbine engines.
BMW has already incorporated more than 10,000 3D-printed parts in the Rolls-Royce Phantom and intends to expand the use of 3D printing in its cars even more in the future. Meanwhile, Daimler has started using additive manufacturing for producing spare parts in Mercedes-Benz Trucks.
SABIC's lightweighting polycarbonate glazing materials have appeared for the first time in a production car: the rear quarter window of Toyota's special edition 86 GRMN sports car, where they're saving 50% of its weight compared to conventional glass.
Design engineers play a big role in selecting both suppliers and materials for their designs. Our most recent Design News Materials Survey says they continue to be highly involved, in some ways even more than the last time we asked to peek inside their cubicles.
Daihatsu is one of the first carmakers to customize car exteriors using 3D printing's mass customization capabilities. Effect Skins -- small exterior bumper and fender panels in different colors and textures -- can be ordered for its Copen convertible.
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