Plans by Airbus to use an aluminum alloy skeleton for the A350 have been abandoned due to customer pressure. It’s now reported that Airbus will use advanced composites for the frame, echoing the strategy used in Boeing’s much-heralded Dreamliner. Customers pushed Airbus to the all-composite approach because of perceptions there would be maintenance problems in mating composites and aluminum in the manner Airbus planned. The shift is a blow to technical officials at Alcoa, who had developed innovative new designs. The new aluminum concepts, particularly an interesting wing box concept, are still very much in play for the next generation of single-aisle aircraft.
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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