Any type of government management of the car industry is a bad idea. One proof of that is the Trabant, a “car” produced in East Germany before the fall of the Berlin Wall. To start with, the vehicle was made from plastic composite, no not the type of high-tech thermoplastic material envisioned for the hood of the Chevy Volt concept car or the carbon composite hood used in the Corvette ZR1. The Trabant’s composite was called Duroplast, a thermoset resin reinforced with cotton waste from Russia. It couldn’t be recycled and when it burned the material produced toxic residue. Paper was also at times used as a reinforcing material for the phenolic waste matrix material, leading to the erroneous suggestion that the Trabant’s body was made from cardboard. Duroplast was the best part of the Trabant, which was made by VEB Sachsenring Automobilwerke Zwickau. One reviewer commented: “Ostensibly, there’s not a whole lot to love about a car that creaks like an out-of-warranty pirate ship and spews more smoke than a Winston Churchill-Fidel Castro summit.” The car cost a comrade a year’s salary and some buyers had to wait as long as 15 years for a delivery. The Trabant–a car made in a Socialist system– is one of the reasons why I don’t want the federal government to get involved in the car industry – in any way, shape or form.
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.
More and more -- that's what we'll see from plastics and composites in 2015, more types of plastics and more ways they can be used. Two of the fastest-growing uses will be automotive parts, plus medical implants and devices. New types of plastics will include biodegradable materials, plastics that can be easily recycled, and some that do both.
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