We finally got a look today at the “production version” of the Chevy Volt in a grand news conference in Detroit (which I saw via the Web). The concept car—shown at the Detroit Auto Show 18 months ago—was a drop-dead beauty with edgy, angular lines. It created the kind of chill I felt when I first saw the Dodge Viper, or even the original Corvette. The production vehicle unveiled yesterday? Well, it looks kind of ordinary. In an effort to make the vehicle as aerodynamic as possible, big swooping lines are the dominant look. There’s a lot more window area. It looks more like a car for a hockey mom than Batman. The black roof that looks like polycarbonate is, however, striking. That type of feature would break ground for a mass-market car. The polycarbonate reduces weight and boosts light that could enter the car’s interior. Materials suppliers, such as Sabic Innovative Plastics, were tight-lipped today. Sabic (as GE Plastics) had provided the PC roof and composite body panels for the concept Volt. Earlier, a GM exec had told Design News in an exclusive interview that innovative materials were still very much in play for the Volt.
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.