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.
An MIT research team has invented what they see as a solution to the need for biodegradable 3D-printable materials made from something besides petroleum-based sources: a water-based robotic additive extrusion method that makes objects from biodegradable hydrogel composites.
Alcoa has unveiled a new manufacturing and materials technology for making aluminum sheet, aimed especially at automotive, industrial, and packaging applications. If all its claims are true, this is a major breakthrough, and may convince more automotive engineers to use aluminum.
NASA has just installed a giant robot to help in its research on composite aerospace materials, like those used for the Orion spacecraft. The agency wants to shave the time it takes to get composites through design, test, and manufacturing stages.
The European Space Agency (ESA) is working with architects Foster + Partners to test the possibility of using lunar regolith, or moon rocks, and 3D printing to make structures for use on the moon. A new video shows some cool animations of a hypothetical lunar mission that carries out this vision.
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