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 slew of announcements about new materials and design concepts for transportation have come out of several trade shows focusing on plastics, aircraft interiors, heavy trucks, and automotive engineering. A few more announcements have come independent of any trade shows, maybe just because it's spring.
At the JEC Europe 2015 composites show in Paris last month, makers of composite materials, software, and process equipment showed off their latest innovations. This year's show saw some announcements related to automotive applications, but many of the improvements came in the world of aerospace.
The DuPont-sponsored Plastics Industry Trends survey shows engineers want improved performance in a broad range of plastics and better recycling technology. These concerns top even processing enhancements that improve productivity.
Plastics leader SABIC recently announced a global initiative to help its customers take advantage of additive manufacturing (AM) and also advance 3D printing (3DP) technologies in several application areas. The company's plans go way beyond materials, and also include design, processing, and part performance.
A theme that was reflected in several ways at NPE 2015 was the use of 3D printing to assist in, or improve on, injection molding, as well as improvements in 3D printing materials and processes that are making better functional prototypes and end-use parts.
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