Change of Materials in Cars


I’m spending my weekend at a car show in Bettendorf, Iowa. Looking at all of the cars – the earliest from 1903 – you can see just how much cars have changed over the last century. If you look at the frame work of many of the early cars, you’ll see that they are made up of mostly wood with sheet metal over the top. As advancements in steel were made, car manufacturers started moving towards construction that was done mostly with steel. In attempts to make cars lighter to be more fuel efficient and conscious of the environment, bumpers, which were once made with one of the strongest material we know, were the replaced with Styrofoam and plastic, which is typically something we think of as weak. At one point in time attempts were made to build cars mostly out of aluminum because of the weight savings. However it was thought that there was a lack of structural safety, and manufacturing returned to steal. Now with advancements in both engineering and the manufacturing process there is resurgence in the use of aluminum. For instance, the Ford F-150 which has been the work horse in the truck world for years is currently somewhat controversial. It was once entirely made of steel, and now the newest body is made of aluminum. At one time we thought that the more metal you had around you the safer you were. We now know that lighter vehicles can actually be safer than those heavy cars made entirely out of steel. Now, recent advancements in powdered metal have made even more changes possible for the future of the manufacturing process.

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