In the automotive industry, there’s a lot of focus on finding alternatives to heavy steel. That’s because more advanced and lighter materials offer so much more benefits than your traditional steel. A lighter car is easier to accelerate and brake. It’s easier to handle. It’s more fuel-efficient, and it can be much safer as well as the lightweight material can absorb the force of impacts instead of transferring the force through the steel into the driver and passengers.
Vehicles with three wheels may not be very common, but they’re hardly new either. What is new is that some of the newer models are now being made mostly with plastics. Spira is one example of this new wave in three-wheeled vehicles.
It’s been made mostly with a special mix of materials, using ABS plastic, a tough type of honeycomb fiberglass, and a thick protective layer of polypropylene plastic foam. This material can provide safety for the driver, and the lighter weight of the material also protects pedestrians on the road.
The Spira is so tough that when of them was struck by a hit and run driver, both the Spira and the driver were fine with only a few scratches. That’s after the whole vehicle rolled 4 times after the hit! The manufacturer of the Spira has also disclosed that they’re now developing a 4-wheeled vehicle using the same materials.
This is the self-driving electric car that was made with 3D printing, and it can be found along the streets of the nation’s capital. It uses a composite material with 80% made of acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) plastic while the rest is made from carbon fiber.
This car is truly powered in such an efficient manner, and its light weight helps with its speed. Many of its parts can also be recycled after its lifespan, so it is eco-friendly as well.
Ford has also disclosed that they’re developing new plastics that come from captured carbon dioxide waste streams. In other words, they’re developing plastics from excess carbon dioxide, just like how plants use carbon dioxide to make oxygen. Ford plans to use the plastics for parts such as seat backs and cushions.
3D Printed Cars
The automotive industry is already using 3D printing for rapid prototyping. But now there’s a secret race going on among car manufacturers to actually build cars using 3D printing.
With this technology, their chassis is even stronger than a regular chassis. The company can also 3D print other parts so that they can basically assemble a chassis in just half an hour.
For the car body, they use a plastic composite material. Their prototype is called the Blade Supercar, and its weight is less than 1,400 pounds. That allows the car to go from zero to 60 mph in an astonishing 2.5 seconds.
Another manufacturer is Local Motors, which has already 3D printed an electric car called the Strati. Unlike regular cars with painstakingly assembled parts that number into the tens of thousands, this car only has a total of about 50 parts.
Ford is also entering the 3D printing arena, though it’s starting with just personalized car parts. Their plans may include a 3D printed spoiler, which will weigh only half as much as the cast metal variant.
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