One of outcomes of the drive to reduce fuel consumption will be a major drive to composites. Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner will improve fuel efficiency 20 percent through use of composites in half of its structure. All of the material is coming, at least for now, from Toray Industries, the world’s largest supplier of PAN-based carbon fiber. Toray says demand for the material is growing at a 15 per cent annual rate, with much of the immediate push coming from the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. But Toray says a major demand developing from auto producers, which are already experimenting with high-tech thermoplastic composites. The carbon fiber matrices will also be used more in CNG tanks. Prices of the materials are soaring, and there have been reports of supply constraints. Toray is spending close to $1 billion now to boost capacity.
Optomec's third America Makes project for metal 3D printing teams the LENS process company with GE Aviation, Lockheed, and other big aerospace names to develop guidelines for repairing high-value flight-critical Air Force components.
A self-propelled robot developed by a team of researchers headed by MIT promises to detect leaks quickly and accurately in gas pipelines, eliminating the likelihood of dangerous explosions. The robot may also be useful in water and petroleum pipe leak detection.
Aerojet Rocketdyne has built and successfully hot-fire tested an entire 3D-printed rocket engine. In other news, NASA's 3D-printed rocket engine injectors survived tests generating a record 20,000 pounds of thrust. Some performed equally well or better than welded parts.
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