As I mentioned before, Chuck, this is really good news. These materials seem a far better option than plastic for a lot of parts, body panels included. Even if some plastic ones remain in use, having more metal parts throughout the rest of the vehicles hopefully will make them stronger overall.
I know some car makers like Ford have been 3D printing vehicle parts like transmissions to expedite the manufacturing process and development cyle of automobiles. Just wondering if 3D printing technology will be used to assist in the development of these aluminum structures for automobiles.
It's good to see auto makers return to the basics of automotive design. Without a structural sound car body, all of the sophisticated electronics will not improve the rideability and performance of the vehicle. Its definitely a new age of thinking in the auto industry.
That's a good point, naperlou. For the past ten years, it seemed all I was hearing about was electronics. Now, with CAFE mandates looming and crash safety growing more important, materials have suddenly become a big issue to the auto industry.
I'm sure some automakers still want to use plastic body panels, Liz, but the auto industry in general seems to be moving away from them. In his book, Car Guys vs. Bean Counters: The Battle for the Soul of American Business, Bob Lutz wrote this about thermoplastic panels: "In practice, however, the plastic panels were finicky. They took longer to produce than conventional stamped steel, they grew and shrank when the temperature changed, requiring the cars to have wide, unappealing gaps around the doors, hood and trunk for clearance." Advanced steels and aluminum are looking better than plastics for reasons involving stiffness and weight, and I think we'll be seeing more of them.
This is indeed a new trend in the automotive industry. For a long time it has been all the electronics that manufacturers were stressing. With these looming standards, which are really for the best, we are seeing them concentrate more on the basics of automotive design.
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