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.
An MIT research team has invented what they see as a solution to the need for biodegradable 3D-printable materials made from something besides petroleum-based sources: a water-based robotic additive extrusion method that makes objects from biodegradable hydrogel composites.
Alcoa has unveiled a new manufacturing and materials technology for making aluminum sheet, aimed especially at automotive, industrial, and packaging applications. If all its claims are true, this is a major breakthrough, and may convince more automotive engineers to use aluminum.
NASA has just installed a giant robot to help in its research on composite aerospace materials, like those used for the Orion spacecraft. The agency wants to shave the time it takes to get composites through design, test, and manufacturing stages.
The European Space Agency (ESA) is working with architects Foster + Partners to test the possibility of using lunar regolith, or moon rocks, and 3D printing to make structures for use on the moon. A new video shows some cool animations of a hypothetical lunar mission that carries out this vision.
Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.