When will Airbus shift to an all-composite fuselage? Could it still happen for the A350? Those are burning questions as Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner continues to sell at a torrid pace. According to the Wall Street Journal, Boeing’s order book for the Dreamliner is moving past 600, while Airbus has less than 148 “less-firm” orders for the A350. The 787 has many advantages: it’s more fuel efficient, easier to maintain and more comfortable than A350. Airbus has been tweaking the design in an effort to catch up. A new variant, dubbed the A350XWB, will have a composite main fuselage skin on an Al/Al-Li frame. Even that could change, however, to an all-composite fuselage. Each shift pushes back the effective service dates for the flagging A350. The Dreamliner probably will have at least a five-year head start.
An in-depth survey of 700 current and future users of 3D printing holds few surprises, but results emphasize some major trends already in progress. Two standouts are the big growth in end-use parts and metal additive manufacturing (AM) most respondents expect.
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