Lightweighting is so established it’s now part of marketing for new vehicles. Automakers routinely detail how much less models weigh than their predecessors. General Motors Co., for example, has said a range of its vehicles is anywhere from almost 250 lb (112.5 kg) to 700 lb (315 kg) lighter.
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Automation in manufacturing is more important than ever, reducing costs and improving quality. While it is important in assembling cars, machining engines, or drilling holes in airframes, is it important to metrology operations as well? “Absolutely,” explained Michael Kleemann, engineering manager VRSI (Plymouth, MI).
Daimler may be the first vehicle maker to offer 3D-printed replacement parts, but racing enthusiasts and car collectors like Jay Leno have been using additive manufacturing and 3D scanning for many years to replace worn-out parts or to enhance their rides.
Challenged by an increasingly niche-oriented automotive market, The Chrysler Group (Auburn Hills, MI) must increase the number of models it offers while decreasing its capital investment. The company plans to offer 50% more models in 2009 compared to 2004, according to John Felice, VP of manufacturing, technology and global enterprise for Chrysler.
It is common sense—a vehicle that weighs less requires less fuel to move it. A number of studies show that reducing the mass of a vehicle by 10% results in anywhere from 4.5 to 6% better fuel economy—well worth the effort.
Entrepreneurs and existing manufacturers are making 3D printers that automate production of composite parts, and are unique in their design.
Keeping products clean is becoming a more significant part of manufacturing as standards for cleanliness, deburring, and finish grow more stringent.
When a contract manufacturer sees an opportunity in the competitive aerospace market, it sets priorities aimed at providing the right combination of processes required to meet the industry’s exacting demands. Precision machining and finishing, parts inspection, and, of course, certifications from OEMs and industry alliances are at the top of the list. Increasingly, aerospace suppliers like Volvo Aero Connecticut (Newington, CT) are benefiting from five-axis machining, advanced CNC controls, motors and drives, robotic deburring, and on-machine inspection for a competitive advantage.
From Boeing 787s to new Navy destroyers, fiber-reinforced composites are gaining in use. As production scales up, more-efficient manufacturing remains a focus. One key to that efficiency is tooling for composites. These molds and forms give the final shape to a part, and are often integral to their final curing.
There’s an old saw that if bumblebees were aeronautical engineers they would know they can’t fly. Quite apart from the miracle of their flight, bees also happen to make a lightweight structure of surprising strength, just the sort of thing you’d want if you were building aircraft: honeycomb.