Hate parallel parking? Maybe the so-called “Smart Car” is for you. I first saw one at the German plastics fair (the K) in 1998. It looked more like an enclosed golf cart than a car to me. And, I sure didn’t try to get in one. It’s less than 100 inches long, and probably would be crushed by a very large kid on heelies pushing a wheelbarrow loaded with bricks. I bring this up because DaimlerChrysler wants to sell the vehicle in the United States. I’m not sure why because it was less than a stellar success in Europe where its tiny size was a perfect fit for older towns. I suspect it’s a reaction to Chrysler’s own plans to sell Chinese Tiggios in America. I don’t know why they’re called “smart cars”. That term is usually used in reference to cars with a lot of artificial intelligence. This car is more famous for its extensive use of plastics to save weight. They were a test bed for thermoplastics body panels from GE Plastics. The new “smartfortwo” (a littletoocute) features what is described as the largest polycarbonate roof ever fitted to a car. Plastic glazing is definitely coming, as I described in the Chevy Volt. But the Smart car isn’t for me. If you want to do something short of jumping off a bridge with Al Gore to save the planet, buy a Smart Car.
Norway-based additive manufacturing company Norsk Titanium is building what it says is the first industrial-scale 3D printing plant in the world for making aerospace-grade metal components. The New York state plant will produce 400 metric tons each year of aerospace-grade, structural titanium parts.
Siemens and Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology have achieved a faster production process based on selective laser melting for speeding up the prototyping of big, complex metal parts in gas turbine engines.
BMW has already incorporated more than 10,000 3D-printed parts in the Rolls-Royce Phantom and intends to expand the use of 3D printing in its cars even more in the future. Meanwhile, Daimler has started using additive manufacturing for producing spare parts in Mercedes-Benz Trucks.
SABIC's lightweighting polycarbonate glazing materials have appeared for the first time in a production car: the rear quarter window of Toyota's special edition 86 GRMN sports car, where they're saving 50% of its weight compared to conventional glass.
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