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.
An MIT research team has invented what they see as a solution to the need for biodegradable 3D-printable materials made from something besides petroleum-based sources: a water-based robotic additive extrusion method that makes objects from biodegradable hydrogel composites.
Alcoa has unveiled a new manufacturing and materials technology for making aluminum sheet, aimed especially at automotive, industrial, and packaging applications. If all its claims are true, this is a major breakthrough, and may convince more automotive engineers to use aluminum.
NASA has just installed a giant robot to help in its research on composite aerospace materials, like those used for the Orion spacecraft. The agency wants to shave the time it takes to get composites through design, test, and manufacturing stages.
The European Space Agency (ESA) is working with architects Foster + Partners to test the possibility of using lunar regolith, or moon rocks, and 3D printing to make structures for use on the moon. A new video shows some cool animations of a hypothetical lunar mission that carries out this vision.
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