Keep a close eye on developments with China’s home grown car producers, such as Chery, Brilliance and Geely. They put emphasis on low-cost, mass output and not on technical innovation—a critical factor for advancing the use of engineering plastics. We’re not talking the Chevy Volt here; we’re talking the Chery Tiggio. You’ve probably heard a lot about the involvement of VW and GM in the China market. And in fact those two OEMs and their local JV partners are the current leaders in production. But the Chinese-owned and developed companies are growing fastest. Sales by Chery are up 48% for example, while GM’s sales are up 22%. News that Chrysler is collaborating with Chery on new models that will be sold by Chrysler in the United States under the Dodge brand turns up the heat.
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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