Toyota is changing its engineering practices in an effort to halt a slide in vehicle quality. In one major shift, more engineering work will be done in house. The amount of engineering work contracted to outside firms will drop from about 30 percent to 10 percent, according to an article in this morning’s Wall Street Journal. Toyota will also reduce total engineering effort by eliminating engine options and other design variants. In another change, testing time will be stretched out, and possibly will include use of more physical prototypes.
At least some of Toyota’s recent quality problems have been caused by poor fundamental engineering execution. In a problem disclosed by Design News, Toyota says a poorly selected plastic used as friction levers in accelerator pedal assemblies caused the gas pedal to malfunction in certain weather conditions.
Artificially created metamaterials are already appearing in niche applications like electronics, communications, and defense, says a new report from Lux Research. How quickly they become mainstream depends on cost-effective manufacturing methods, which will include additive manufacturing.
SpaceX has 3D printed and successfully hot-fired a SuperDraco engine chamber made of Inconel, a high-performance superalloy, using direct metal laser sintering (DMLS). The company's first 3D-printed rocket engine part, a main oxidizer valve body for the Falcon 9 rocket, launched in January and is now qualified on all Falcon 9 flights.
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and MIT have 3D-printed a new class of metamaterials that are both exceptionally light and have exceptional strength and stiffness. The new metamaterials maintain a nearly constant stiffness per unit of mass density, over three orders of magnitude.
Smart composites that let the material's structural health be monitored automatically and continuously are getting closer to reality. R&D partners in an EU-sponsored project have demonstrated what they say is the first complete, miniaturized, fiber-optic sensor system entirely embedded inside a fiber-reinforced composite.
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