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.
How 3D printing fits into the digital thread, and the relationship between its uses for prototyping and for manufacturing, was the subject of a talk by Proto Labs' Rich Baker at last week's Design & Manufacturing Minneapolis.
How can automakers, aerospace contractors, and other OEMs get new metal alloys that are stronger, harder, and can survive ever higher temperatures? One way is to redesign their crystalline structures at the nanoscale and microscale.
Although a lot of the excitement about 3D printing and additive manufacturing surrounds its ability to make end-products and functional prototypes, some often ignored applications are the big improvements that can come by using it for tooling, jigs, and fixtures.
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