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.
A self-propelled robot developed by a team of researchers headed by MIT promises to detect leaks quickly and accurately in gas pipelines, eliminating the likelihood of dangerous explosions. The robot may also be useful in water and petroleum pipe leak detection.
Aerojet Rocketdyne has built and successfully hot-fire tested an entire 3D-printed rocket engine. In other news, NASA's 3D-printed rocket engine injectors survived tests generating a record 20,000 pounds of thrust. Some performed equally well or better than welded parts.
Researchers at MIT's d'Arbeloff Laboratory are developing shoulder- and hip-mounted robotic arms to help workers in aircraft manufacturing perform difficult or complex assembly tasks that would normally require two people.
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