One sign of the slowly improving economy is an increase in automotive engineering innovation. The 2010 Innovation Awards Program sponsored by the Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE) received 62 nominations, the most in recent years.
The entries included a range of fascinating technologies, including several game-changing designs focusing on plastics-enabled assembly that consolidates parts, improves quality, reduces use of fasteners and cuts tooling requirements. Entries came from Ford, General Motors, Chrysler, Kia Motors, PSA Citroen, BMW, Hyundai Motors, Ferrari, and Subaru.
Conspicuously absent from the Blue Ribbon judging held today at the Ticona Technical Center in Auburn Hills, MI, were entries covering new technologies for the battery-powered Chevy Volt. GM decided to withhold technical data on the Volt until its public unveiling, which begins this week with introduction to the auto press.
The results of the judging will be made public at a gala awards ceremony Nov. 9 In Livonia, MI.
As the 3D printing and overall additive manufacturing ecosystem grows, standards and guidelines from standards bodies and government organizations are increasing. Multiple players with multiple needs are also driving the role of 3DP and AM as enabling technologies for distributed manufacturing.
A growing though not-so-obvious role for 3D printing, 4D printing, and overall additive manufacturing is their use in fabricating new materials and enabling new or improved manufacturing and assembly processes. Individual engineers, OEMs, university labs, and others are reinventing the technology to suit their own needs.
For vehicles to meet the 2025 Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, three things must happen: customers must look beyond the data sheet and engage materials supplier earlier, and new integrated multi-materials are needed to make step-change improvements.
3D printing, 4D printing, and various types of additive manufacturing (AM) will get even bigger in 2015. We're not talking about consumer use, which gets most of the attention, but processes and technologies that will affect how design engineers design products and how manufacturing engineers make them. For now, the biggest industries are still aerospace and medical, while automotive and architecture continue to grow.
More and more -- that's what we'll see from plastics and composites in 2015, more types of plastics and more ways they can be used. Two of the fastest-growing uses will be automotive parts, plus medical implants and devices. New types of plastics will include biodegradable materials, plastics that can be easily recycled, and some that do both.
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