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.
The 100% solar-powered airplane Solar Impulse 2 is prepping for its upcoming flight, becoming the first plane to fly around the world without using fuel. It's able to do so because of above-average performance by all of the technologies that go into it, especially materials.
As the 3D printing and overall additive manufacturing ecosystem grows, standards and guidelines from standards bodies and government organizations are increasing. Multiple players with multiple needs are also driving the role of 3DP and AM as enabling technologies for distributed manufacturing.
A growing though not-so-obvious role for 3D printing, 4D printing, and overall additive manufacturing is their use in fabricating new materials and enabling new or improved manufacturing and assembly processes. Individual engineers, OEMs, university labs, and others are reinventing the technology to suit their own needs.
For vehicles to meet the 2025 Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, three things must happen: customers must look beyond the data sheet and engage materials supplier earlier, and new integrated multi-materials are needed to make step-change improvements.
3D printing, 4D printing, and various types of additive manufacturing (AM) will get even bigger in 2015. We're not talking about consumer use, which gets most of the attention, but processes and technologies that will affect how design engineers design products and how manufacturing engineers make them. For now, the biggest industries are still aerospace and medical, while automotive and architecture continue to grow.
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