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.
As the 3D printing and overall additive manufacturing ecosystem grows, standards and guidelines from standards bodies and government organizations are increasing. Multiple players with multiple needs are also driving the role of 3DP and AM as enabling technologies for distributed manufacturing.
A growing though not-so-obvious role for 3D printing, 4D printing, and overall additive manufacturing is their use in fabricating new materials and enabling new or improved manufacturing and assembly processes. Individual engineers, OEMs, university labs, and others are reinventing the technology to suit their own needs.
For vehicles to meet the 2025 Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, three things must happen: customers must look beyond the data sheet and engage materials supplier earlier, and new integrated multi-materials are needed to make step-change improvements.
3D printing, 4D printing, and various types of additive manufacturing (AM) will get even bigger in 2015. We're not talking about consumer use, which gets most of the attention, but processes and technologies that will affect how design engineers design products and how manufacturing engineers make them. For now, the biggest industries are still aerospace and medical, while automotive and architecture continue to grow.
More and more -- that's what we'll see from plastics and composites in 2015, more types of plastics and more ways they can be used. Two of the fastest-growing uses will be automotive parts, plus medical implants and devices. New types of plastics will include biodegradable materials, plastics that can be easily recycled, and some that do both.
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