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.
BMW has already incorporated more than 10,000 3D-printed parts in the Rolls-Royce Phantom and intends to expand the use of 3D printing in its cars even more in the future. Meanwhile, Daimler has started using additive manufacturing for producing spare parts in Mercedes-Benz Trucks.
SABIC's lightweighting polycarbonate glazing materials have appeared for the first time in a production car: the rear quarter window of Toyota's special edition 86 GRMN sports car, where they're saving 50% of its weight compared to conventional glass.
Design engineers play a big role in selecting both suppliers and materials for their designs. Our most recent Design News Materials Survey says they continue to be highly involved, in some ways even more than the last time we asked to peek inside their cubicles.
Daihatsu is one of the first carmakers to customize car exteriors using 3D printing's mass customization capabilities. Effect Skins -- small exterior bumper and fender panels in different colors and textures -- can be ordered for its Copen convertible.
Several new products in this group of new adhesives, coatings, and sealants are formulated to protect sensitive electronic components, or to seal components of commercial and military aircraft. Others are designed to operate in tough, messy, dirty oil & gas operations, or for rotary applications and motors.
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