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.
These new 3D-printing technologies and printers include some that are truly boundary-breaking: a sophisticated new sub-$10,000, 10-plus materials bioprinter, the first industrial-strength silicone 3D-printing service, and a clever twist on 3D printing and thermoforming for making high-quality realistic models.
Using simulation to guide the drafting process can speed up the design and production of 3D-printed nanostructures, reduce errors, and even make it possible to scale up the structures. Oak Ridge National Laboratory has developed a model that does this.
Engineers need workhorse materials with beefy mechanical properties for industrial designs made with 3D printing. Very few have been designed from the ground up for additive manufacturing, but that picture is beginning to change.
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