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.
A new compression molding compound material combines the light weight, strength, and rigidity of carbon fibers with the flexibility and lower cost of glass materials in a composite compatible with automotive production.
Plastic bearings are real and millions of them are in use doing heavy-duty jobs we used to think only metals could do. Some of Germany-based igus's bearings are traveling around the world as functional parts in a car to demonstrate what they can do.
Baxter showed off his 2.0-derived moves at ATX West this year. The big red guy still looks pretty much the same, but has some new abilities, mostly due to software. The research robot version is now being used in corporate R&D departments as a design platform.
End-production using 3D printing, including objects made of multiple materials in one pass, is getting closer to reality as we saw on the exhibit floor at the recent Pacific Design & Manufacturing Show.