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.
HP revealed more of its 3D printing plans in a recent webinar. Senior vice president of inkjet and graphics solution business Stephen Nigro spoke about how the technology works and expanded on HP's vision of open collaboration to commercialize its Multi Jet Fusion 3D printing technology for end-production, and open collaboration on new materials. He also said HP will create software to help users decide when to use Multi Jet Fusion versus conventional subtractive manufacturing.
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.
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