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.
Alcoa has unveiled a new manufacturing and materials technology for making aluminum sheet, aimed especially at automotive, industrial, and packaging applications. If all its claims are true, this is a major breakthrough, and may convince more automotive engineers to use aluminum.
NASA has just installed a giant robot to help in its research on composite aerospace materials, like those used for the Orion spacecraft. The agency wants to shave the time it takes to get composites through design, test, and manufacturing stages.
The European Space Agency (ESA) is working with architects Foster + Partners to test the possibility of using lunar regolith, or moon rocks, and 3D printing to make structures for use on the moon. A new video shows some cool animations of a hypothetical lunar mission that carries out this vision.
If there's one thing 3D printing's good for, it's customization. New Balance Athletic Shoe Company has begun using 3D printing to make customized spike plates for its running shoes made for members of its Team New Balance runners. They provide better traction and shave off a tiny bit of weight.
Two teams, one based in the US and one in Europe, have 3D printed space-worthy support structures for satellite antenna arrays. These aren't prototypes: they're fully functioning antenna supports that will operate while exposed to the harsh temperatures and radiation of outer space.
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