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.
To give engineers a better idea of the range of resins and polymers available as alternatives to other materials, this Technology Roundup presents several articles on engineering plastics that can do the job.
The first photos made with a 3D-printed telescope are here and they're not as fuzzy as you might expect. A team from the University of Sheffield beat NASA to the goal. The photos of the Moon were made with a reflecting telescope that cost the research team £100 to make (about $161 US).
A tiny humanoid robot has safely piloted a small plane all the way from cold start to takeoff, landing and coming to a full stop on the plane's designated runway. Yes, it happened in a pilot training simulation -- but the research team isn't far away from doing it in the real world.
Some in the US have welcomed 3D printing for boosting local economies and bringing some offshored manufacturing back onshore. Meanwhile, China is wielding its power of numbers, and its very different relationships between government, education, and industry, to kickstart a homegrown industry.
You can find out practically everything you need to know about engineering plastics as alternatives to other materials at the 2014 IAPD Plastics Expo. Admission is free for engineers, designers, specifiers, and OEMs, as well as students and faculty.
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