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.
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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