The next-generation materials approaches used in the Chevy Volt concept car last year are still “very much in play”, says Mark Verbrugge, director of the GM Materials and Processes Lab. Costs of materials used in the Volt, which is due for delivery in two years, will be higher than those normally used to ensure light weight, he said in an exclusive interview with Design News. Reducing mass will be an important strategy to meet the mandate that the Volt must go at least 40 miles without a charge. “If you use more material, you will need a bigger battery,” comments Verbrugge. The vehicle must also sell for less than $30,000, per a mandate from Vice Chairman Robert Lutz. The concept car used a polycarbonate roof, an idea Verburgge confirmed is manageable. The Volt also used a molded thermoplastic hood developed by Sabic Innovative Plastics .The 2010 timeline is doable, says Verbrugge. “You can do it, but at what kind of volumes and what kind of value proposition?’
My thinking is that a version of the Volt will debut by the end of 2010. But it will still be very much of a work in progress. The price probably will rise close to $40,000 and the first Volt will be more of a boutique model than a mass market version. But it’s great to see GM press so hard on the concept.
Artificially created metamaterials are already appearing in niche applications like electronics, communications, and defense, says a new report from Lux Research. How quickly they become mainstream depends on cost-effective manufacturing methods, which will include additive manufacturing.
SpaceX has 3D printed and successfully hot-fired a SuperDraco engine chamber made of Inconel, a high-performance superalloy, using direct metal laser sintering (DMLS). The company's first 3D-printed rocket engine part, a main oxidizer valve body for the Falcon 9 rocket, launched in January and is now qualified on all Falcon 9 flights.
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and MIT have 3D-printed a new class of metamaterials that are both exceptionally light and have exceptional strength and stiffness. The new metamaterials maintain a nearly constant stiffness per unit of mass density, over three orders of magnitude.
Smart composites that let the material's structural health be monitored automatically and continuously are getting closer to reality. R&D partners in an EU-sponsored project have demonstrated what they say is the first complete, miniaturized, fiber-optic sensor system entirely embedded inside a fiber-reinforced composite.
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