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.
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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