One of the great untold stories of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner concerns the types of fastening methods used to hold the composite sections in place. One of the beauties of the composite bodies is the elimination of thousands of aluminum rivets that added weight and drag. The number of fasteners in the Dreamliner is down 80 per cent from previous models. There are something like 1,500 aluminum sheets in one metal barrel, requiring close to 50,000 rivets. There are still lots of fasteners in the 787. And they have been the project’s Achilles heel to date. Thousands of temporary rivets (marked red) were used on the prototype. They all had to be exchanged for fasteners fit for flight. Boeing’s supply partner, Alcoa, could not meet demand due to downsized capacity. That was an inexcusable breakdown in supply chain communications. Capacity is now said to be catching up to demand. But what about the design challenges in fastening the sections? Are different types of fasteners used? Are they primarily titanium instead of aluminum? How secure is the supply of titanium for the enormous number of Dreamliners on order?
Boeing won’t talk. I submitted a request for an interview on these points and got this response from Boeing PR person Scott Lefeber: “I have reviewed this with our subject matter experts and they understand what you would like, but unfortunately it would be too much detail that would be considered proprietary.”
Boeing has gotten tons of great ink on the Dreamliner, including more than a small amount from Design News, which won first place in a national magazine competition for the quality of its coverage. Time and Newsweek took the next two spots.
And the Dreamliner is a great American technology story. In fact Boeing 787 Chief Project Engineer Tom Cogan was named Engineer of the Year by Design News.
But Boeing has controlled information on the Dreamliner in a way worthy at times of a Politburo. Suppliers are told not to talk, unless given explicit permission by Boeing. And Boeing officials may not be available to discuss even basic technology, such as the assembly systems on the Dreamliner. Proprietary technology? Or fear that more poor planning may be exposed?
A new service lets engineers and orthopedic surgeons design and 3D print highly accurate, patient-specific, orthopedic medical implants made of metal -- without owning a 3D printer. Using free, downloadable software, users can import ASCII and binary .STL files, design the implant, and send an encrypted design file to a third-party manufacturer.
A recent report sponsored by the American Chemistry Council (ACC) focuses on emerging gasification technologies for converting waste into energy and fuel on a large scale and saving it from the landfill. Some of that waste includes non-recycled plastic.
Capping a 30-year quest, GE Aviation has broken ground on the first high-volume factory for producing commercial jet engine components from ceramic matrix composites. The plant will produce high-pressure turbine shrouds for the LEAP Turbofan engine.
Seismic shifts in 3D printing materials include an optimization method that reduces the material needed to print an object by 85 percent, research designed to create new, stronger materials, and a new ASTM standard for their mechanical properties.
A recent study finds that 3D printing is both cheaper and greener than traditional factory-based mass manufacturing and distribution. At least, it's true for making consumer plastic products on open-source, low-cost RepRap printers.
For industrial control applications, or even a simple assembly line, that machine can go almost 24/7 without a break. But what happens when the task is a little more complex? That’s where the “smart” machine would come in. The smart machine is one that has some simple (or complex in some cases) processing capability to be able to adapt to changing conditions. Such machines are suited for a host of applications, including automotive, aerospace, defense, medical, computers and electronics, telecommunications, consumer goods, and so on. This discussion will examine what’s possible with smart machines, and what tradeoffs need to be made to implement such a solution.