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.
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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