The New Obama fuel mileage requirements for cars are music to the ears of the American steel industry. That might seem odd. After all, aren’t a lot of those concept cars rolled out of Detroit every year loaded with plastic and other lightweight materials options? Yes, but a lot of those concepts remain concepts. Take the Chevy Volt for example. It was first shown at the Detroit Auto Show in January 2007 with a polycarbonate roof and a hood made from recycled soda bottles. Once GM decided to actually make the Volt, those two ideas were quickly dropped. Too impractical. Too expensive. A study recently released by the American Iron and Steel Institute predicts a 10 percent annual growth rate in the use of advanced high-strength steels through 2020 as auto makers try to meet tough new fuel standards.
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.