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.
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.
Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.