The first priority for General Motors engineers working on the Chevy Volt has been to develop a powertrain that makes economic and environmental sense. As my colleague Chuck Murray has been blogging, there has been some controversy over GM’s interesting approach.
The second priority will be to dramatically reduce the vehicle’s weight in second- and third-generation vehicles. The Volt is built on the Chevy Cruze platform and weighs almost 3,800 pounds. The Cruze weighs 2,832 pounds. The reason: the battery package alone weighs 435 pounds, and there is other new gear associated with the Volt’s new powertrain.
Use of aluminum in the engine block to replace iron would be a logical place to start. The lost foam casting process would allow more complex and detailed features to be cast directly into the engine block. A near net shape part would reduce weight even beyond the difference in the weight of the materials. The foam pattern is formed from expandable beads, usually pentane-blown polystyrene. GM now has more than five years’ experience with the lost foam process on engine blocks used in trucks and sports utility vehicles.
The Volt would also be an ideal place to use the composite underbody that GM has been developing as part of the USCAR project. USCAR has reported significant improvements in the manufacturability and quality of fabric-reinforced sections that would replace stamped steel assemblies.
A make-your-own Star Wars Sith Lightsaber hilt is heftier and better-looking than most others out there, according to its maker, Sean Charlesworth. You can 3D print it from free source files, and there's even a hardware kit available -- not free -- so you can build one just in time for Halloween.
Some next-generation bio-based materials are superior in performance to their petro-based counterparts, but also face some commercial challenges. This is especially true of certain biopolymers, adhesives, coatings, and advanced materials.
Cars and other vehicles, as well as electronics and medical devices, continue to lead the use cases for the new plastics products we've been seeing, as engineers design products for tougher environments.
LeMond Composites, founded by three-time Tour de France cycling champion Greg LeMond, is the first to license a new carbon fiber production method invented by Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) that's faster, cheaper, and greener.
This month will mark the launch of the SpeedFoiler, a super-fast, ultra-lightweight foiling catamaran that can fly short distances over water faster than other foiling designs, in part because of its carbon composite materials.
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