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 :-) ?
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For industrial control applications, or even a simple assembly line, that machine can go almost 24/7 without a break. But what happens when the task is a little more complex? That’s where the “smart” machine would come in. The smart machine is one that has some simple (or complex in some cases) processing capability to be able to adapt to changing conditions. Such machines are suited for a host of applications, including automotive, aerospace, defense, medical, computers and electronics, telecommunications, consumer goods, and so on. This discussion will examine what’s possible with smart machines, and what tradeoffs need to be made to implement such a solution.