New high-strength steels, along with composites and adhesives, are helping to reduce weight and increase strength in modern vehicles.
"About half the steel in cars being used today didn't exist even 15 to 20 years ago," says Dave Paratore, president and CEO for NanoSteel.
While that might not seem extremely futuristic, it does show how innovation continues steadily - albeit sometime in the background - in the automotive arena. Today, for example, 3D printing is advancing the automotive industry and making vehicles stronger and lighter.
In 2014, Local Motors made the first 3D-printed car from an ABS carbon-fiber blend (about 80/20 respectively) called Strati. Today, the company has three models and an autonomous electric-powered shuttle named Olli. In addition, Honda released a new version of the Micro-Commuter in October at CEATEC 2016 in Japan. A single-seater with about a 50-mile driving range, the body and majority of the panels on the Micro-Commuter are 3D printed.
As exemplified by the Micro-Commuter, the main driver in 3D printing for vehicles is not printing the entire vehicle, but a move to 3D printing tooling and end-use parts. According to SmarTech, prototyping has only penetrated automotive prototyping by 15 percent to 20 percent. Ford, for example, has been 3D printing prototypes for over 20 years to decrease design time. Recently, the company joined others in investing in a new 3D printing technology to explore using it as a means for production.
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