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 lightweight electric urban concept car designed by several European companies weighs only 992 lb without its battery. It would have weighed 26.7 lb more if its windows were made of glass instead of the specially coated LEXAN polycarbonate resin from SABIC Innovative Plastics.
Skylar Tibbits' team in MIT's Self-Assembly Lab is now 4D printing self-assembling shapes made of programmable carbon composites and custom wood grain. The composites are being used in a sport car airfoil, and the wood grain is beautiful.
The NanoSteel Company has produced high-hardness ferrous metal matrix composite (MMC) parts using a new nanosteel powder in a one-step 3D-printing process. Parts are 99.9% dense, crack-free, and with wear resistance comparable to M2 tool steels.
The company that brought you 3D-printed eyeglasses has launched both an improved clear polymer material for 3D printing optical components and a high-speed, precision, 3D-printing process for making small- and medium-sized batches in a few days.
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