The transformation of global auto engineering continues at a dizzying pace. In the latest spin, Chrysler engineers are making monthly trips to a huge Fiat plant in Tychy, Poland. Small cars come off the assembly line at the plant every 55 seconds, double the production rate 13 years ago. The plant is considered a model of efficiency, and flexibility, and the Chrysler engineers are there to learn. Chrysler engineering is going on a massive diet now that the company is being run by Sergio Marchionne, the CEO of Fiat. It was only 18 months or so ago that Chrysler planned to import small car technology from China. It also wasn’t so terribly long ago that Fiat left the USA market as a failure. It wasn’t so long ago that Poland was behind the Iron Curtain-the home of the world’s worst cars. Things change fast. Maybe that can work in the favor of American car OEMs today.
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.