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.
A new compression molding compound material combines the light weight, strength, and rigidity of carbon fibers with the flexibility and lower cost of glass materials in a composite compatible with automotive production.
Plastic bearings are real and millions of them are in use doing heavy-duty jobs we used to think only metals could do. Some of Germany-based igus's bearings are traveling around the world as functional parts in a car to demonstrate what they can do.
Baxter showed off his 2.0-derived moves at ATX West this year. The big red guy still looks pretty much the same, but has some new abilities, mostly due to software. The research robot version is now being used in corporate R&D departments as a design platform.
End-production using 3D printing, including objects made of multiple materials in one pass, is getting closer to reality as we saw on the exhibit floor at the recent Pacific Design & Manufacturing Show.