The production version of the Chevy Volt introduced in Detroit Tuesday by GM CEO Rick Wagoner revealed a car with a less striking design than the concept car shown in January 2007. Well, the materials used in the car are also taking a more conventional path. The body of the concept Volt used new high-performance composite technology (HPPC) developed by GE Plastics (now Sabic) that featured a sandwich of glass mat and thermoplastics made with regenerated plastic scrap. Bob Nelson, Automotive Executive Marketing Director for Sabic Innovative Plastics, says: “The new commercial Volt that was launched/announced earlier this week does not have any of our composites that we demonstrated on the concept vehicle with GM. We have several successful development programs going on with IXIS but the timing was such that the technology was not going to be ready to put on the Volt. The advantages of IXIS in cycle time and weight reduction and the new product launch of IXIS 157 are being well received by our customers. We will have more to discuss in the future about which vehicle platforms this technology will be on in the future.” There’s no word from GM on the materials used in the production Volt. Undoubtedly, though, the new, lighter advanced steels will play a big role. GM has a few issues to settle with the battery technology before it makes decisions on body tooling.
GM was surprised by the wave of excitement surrounding the Volt concept car last year. Concept cars are just a beauty pageant side show at the Detroit auto extravaganza. Often suppliers, such as GE, would provide much of the money and muscle to demonstrate ideas. Designers are told to use a blank sheet of paper without great concern for production issues. The Volt suddenly became the centerpiece of the future of General Motors, primarily because of its power train. That’s why the production Volt now looks more like a real car.
The 100% solar-powered airplane Solar Impulse 2 is prepping for its upcoming flight, becoming the first plane to fly around the world without using fuel. It's able to do so because of above-average performance by all of the technologies that go into it, especially materials.
As the 3D printing and overall additive manufacturing ecosystem grows, standards and guidelines from standards bodies and government organizations are increasing. Multiple players with multiple needs are also driving the role of 3DP and AM as enabling technologies for distributed manufacturing.
A growing though not-so-obvious role for 3D printing, 4D printing, and overall additive manufacturing is their use in fabricating new materials and enabling new or improved manufacturing and assembly processes. Individual engineers, OEMs, university labs, and others are reinventing the technology to suit their own needs.
For vehicles to meet the 2025 Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, three things must happen: customers must look beyond the data sheet and engage materials supplier earlier, and new integrated multi-materials are needed to make step-change improvements.
3D printing, 4D printing, and various types of additive manufacturing (AM) will get even bigger in 2015. We're not talking about consumer use, which gets most of the attention, but processes and technologies that will affect how design engineers design products and how manufacturing engineers make them. For now, the biggest industries are still aerospace and medical, while automotive and architecture continue to grow.
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