One continues to associate composites with mil/aerospace, where cost is not much of a concern (it's borne by taxpayers). Similarly, the cost is worth paying to get the weight reduction when you're talking advanced race cars. So I guess the question is, how long will it take manufacturing to come down the cost curve, so that this stuff will be cost effective for production automobiles. Also, maybe I'm wrong here, but my understanding is that producing composite panels is much more time- and labor-intensive than is stamping out sheet metal panels.
Wind energy companies are another sector where composites are gaining ground. If you consider the evolution of product capabilities in key design tools like CAD and CAE as any kind of indicator, it would seem composites are being embraced in industries other than aerospace/military. Most of the CAD/CAE tools are incorporating specific technologies to address composite design and they actively target sectors like automotive.
There are roughly 6.5 million accidents in the US per year. One major detriment to composite usage in unibody autos is the repair. To make the molding economical the panels are molded in large sections to replace several formed and welded areas. Another is recognition of damaged areas. Composites hide damage very well sometimes. This WILL help the auto industry one step closer to becoming another throw away product. Composites in monocoque structures make sense in race cars and exotics where the relationship of unit cost to repair cost is reasonable. The auto industry should focus on composite alternatives with secondary panels (outside body) and bolt ons i.e. bracing, seat frames, engine/trans mounts...etc.
I've heard that graphene and/or carbon nanotube composites are even stronger than normal carbon composites ( much stronger ). Is that true? What's happening with the developments along those lines? Can we expect a 787 DreamLiner with paper thin fuselage :-) ?
Using wireless chips and accessories, engineers can now extract data from the unlikeliest of places -- pumps, motors, bridges, conveyors, refineries, cooling towers, parking garages, down-hole drills and just about anything else that can benefit from monitoring.
With strong marketplace demand for qualified engineers across the board that currently outstrips the available supply, there may never be a better time for engineers and project managers to advance their careers and salaries. Whether those moves are successful in the short-term and long-term is likely to depend on how the transition from one job to the next is handled.
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