After two weak years, look for some excitement at the North American Auto Show, which opens to the press on Monday in Detroit. Audi’s new 2012 A6 will officially debut this week. From a materials’ perspective, Audi is a big believer in aluminum as a way to cut weight and boost performance. In fact, more than one-fifth of the chassis is made from aluminum, which is also used in the, doors and trunk lid. Another high-end car getting its first public showing is BMW’s 2012 1 Series M Coupe, which also make extensive use of aluminum in its chassis and various structural components.
Emphasis on lighter weight continues with the expected unveiling of Honda’s 2012 Civic concept. Design engineering of the iconic car was held up after an edict from Honda CE Takanobu Ito to make the new Civic smaller, lighter and more efficient than its predecessor. Materials’ details to come. Aluminum, again, likely will be a winner because engineering of new composites’ structures takes a few years to implement. GM, Ford, and Chrysler are working on a new composite underbody, but there likely will be little evidence at the auto show this week.
Ford is expected to show a concept that will point to the future of its SUV brand. General Motors is expected to show the Chevrolet Sonic (shown below), a new compact for the North American market that will go into production this year in Michigan. We’ll hear about the specifics this week.
Dow Chemical and several other companies have launched a program in Omaha, Neb. to divert about 36 tons of plastics from landfills in its first phase, and convert it into energy used for cement production.
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.
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