Design engineering is becoming much less complicated at Ford Motor Co, which is clearly the most successful American auto company in recent years. Under the “One Ford” plan initiated by CEO Alan Mulally, The auto producer is dramatically reducing the number of options available and is reducing the number of nameplate vehicles from 97 a few years ago to 20. One of the goals is to make Ford brands more universal on a global basis; that is, much less local customization. At one point, for example, Ford had three regional versions of the Focus, requiring three different engineering teams.
The Ford approach flies in the face of longtime American automotive conventional wisdom. General Motors, for example, achieved great success by developing a Buick platform in China with Chinese engineers.
The implication of the Ford strategy for materials is clear: there will be an accelerated trend toward common chemicals platforms within car areas. For instance, look for even greater emphasis on polyolefin polymers in auto interiors. The trend had already begun to facilitate recycling.
An MIT research team has invented what they see as a solution to the need for biodegradable 3D-printable materials made from something besides petroleum-based sources: a water-based robotic additive extrusion method that makes objects from biodegradable hydrogel composites.
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.
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