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 self-propelled robot developed by a team of researchers headed by MIT promises to detect leaks quickly and accurately in gas pipelines, eliminating the likelihood of dangerous explosions. The robot may also be useful in water and petroleum pipe leak detection.
Aerojet Rocketdyne has built and successfully hot-fire tested an entire 3D-printed rocket engine. In other news, NASA's 3D-printed rocket engine injectors survived tests generating a record 20,000 pounds of thrust. Some performed equally well or better than welded parts.
Researchers at MIT's d'Arbeloff Laboratory are developing shoulder- and hip-mounted robotic arms to help workers in aircraft manufacturing perform difficult or complex assembly tasks that would normally require two people.
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