Mercedes-Benz van unit has a team in Silicon Valley working on how to make delivery vans more than a dumb box on wheels.
Sure the drivers have a lot of connectivity, special mobile device.
Vices and sophisticated routing, but the back of the van a dumb box.
"We call it cargo center system." Christopher Kazanchyan of Mercedes Benz has been rapidly iterating smart load floors.
"This is actually a new vision for a floor.
What is this?"
It's literally a floor of tiles and each tile has a weight sensor in it in order to track cargo.
And the system will track where they are placing the package and How well the vehicle is being utilized without additional feedback.
So show me what's inside one for these palettes.
We have some load cells to take the weight data.
So these things sense weight in the corners.
We have a strip of LEDs in the corner.
That's what makes the lights we saw.
Yeah, and the board controls all this with radio to send it.
So why start with a vision like this?
Not just the raw amount of weight in th vehicle, which we can kinda do now.
But what's interesting is, what's where and where did it move?
When did it leave the vehicle?
Because we're so precise with our weight tracking, we could tell which part goes where.
It's not limited to just, you place the package here and now it must be here.
It's We're actively tracking these parcels.
Mercedes wants to come up with similar new innovations for a slew of industries that use its vans.
That means moving fast and in a lot of directions.
You can't produce this fast with old techniques.
We were able to make this fast and not only make the whole thing fast but make the parcels But I came to make these, the parts that failed.
The parts that didn't fit, for this design just kind of move through it and end up here.
This is classic Silicone Valley.
And move on.
Enter 3D printing, via their partner Fathom, in Oakland, California.
If you think what they do is just a bigger version of your 3D printer, think again.
The applications for these printers
Are more so on the industrial side than the consumer side.
I think we went through this hype cycle.
Everyone thought there would be a printer in every single home.
It never really made sense.
Rich Stump and Michelle Mihevc are co-founders of Fathom 3-D in Oakland, California.
They began selling 3-D printers, but now they make things with them.
Like those prototypes for Mercedes.
So I found that we focus on the outside in approach versus the inside out approach.
Focusing on how a product should function versus how it should be made allows us to push the limits of manufacturing and product development.
Let's take a fast walk around Fathom and see some cool 3D printers.
And first of all, this is all known by the pros as additive manufacturing, because you create by precisely adding material, instead of precisely removing it, as with traditional metal, plastic or wood machining.
First up is FDM, or fused deposition modeling.
This is the closest relative to the amateur 3D printer.
Strings of plastic, guided by a precision tip, and fused layer by layer.
The pro machines use more types and better materials.
And you'll see they often build little support structures as they go as well.
Here, the white conical parts are just there to support the black parts, which are the product.
But all of it was built as the machine goes along.
Which brings us to PolyJet, which also feeds through a nozzle, but in this case, using liquid, not plastic thread.
The way that this process starts is you start with a liquid photopolymer material that get's getting out through the modified inkjet printhead very precisely.
And gives you these parts, a very smooth surface and high dimensional accuracy.
Here's a flashlight that's got a grippy part, a hard shell, a hard little button.
Yes, if you press the button it actually works.
It actually works.
[LAUGH] And this is printed, this case As a piece.
SLA, or stereolithography, dates back to the mid 80s.
It's kind of the original, but still fascinating.
This is a photo polymer resin.
And what happens is it's cured with a UV light.
And that can shoot into different depths of this material and make something harden up inside there.
Yeah, one of the benefits of this technology is that it can make very large parts.
And it's also a very smooth surface finish.
Down the road from Fathom is Carbon3D.
They've developed a fascinating technique that starts with a vat of polymer, not unlike SLA we just saw, but uses precisely aimed UV light and carefully controlled presence of oxygen at the bottom of that pool to determine the fused shape that comes out of it.
It's really fast and the parts are multi-directionally a single piece not made of discernible layers.
Ford is an early explorer of this technology.
Back at Batham there are two techniques that are related by the fact that they fuse powdered material together.
SLS or selective laser sintering uses nylon powder.
And DMLS or direct metal laser sintering obviously uses metal powder.
Both do their work in a high temperature chamber and a laser is just there to add a touch more heat at a precise moment which keep the material to its fusing point.
Okay, I think I've saved the best for last.
In a room by itself off the main floor is this thing from a company called Nano Dimensions in Israel called the Dragonfly 2020.
It deserves the fanciful name because what it does is amazing.
It does this.
Now you may say that's a printed circuit board.
But that was made as a This thing prints the board, the substrate, as well as the traces on the surface, as well as the interconnects between both sides, or multiple layers, all as a printed object.
This could revolutionize the way electronics is prototyped to rapidly test physical circuit design And in the deep future, this might even open the door to printing components, printing LEDs, printing ICs, printing OLED screens.
Now, that's not on the market yet, but it's being developed in a couple of places.
This guy, for now, is so rare.
There are two in the world, one of them right here, at Fathom.
So you're really getting a look at the future How something comes out fully baked and very complex.
More car tech demystified, right now, at CNETOnCars.com.
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