A Swiss aircraft project will advance composites technology for the aircraft industry by a factor of two to three, says Andre Borschberg, CEO of a company called Solar Impulse, which will launch its first test flight next year of the manned solar-powered airplane. I caught up with Borschberg on the floor of one of the close to 20 buildings at the sprawling K 2007 in Düsseldorf, Germany. “Its unusual, for example, to use high-modulus carbon fibers,” said Borshberg. Get this: the wing span on the final model will be 80 meters, the same as the Airbus A380, which weighs 560 metric tons. The craft Borshberg will help pilot around the globe in about 12 four years will weigh just two tons. It will be powered by the latest in electric motor technology. The solar panels will only provide enough electricity to light up a very large Christmas tree, requiring enormous effort to keep weight low. The planes will fly at night on battery power. Solvay Advanced Polymers of Alpharetta, GA is a development partner for the plane and is already well along on a shielded throttle housing.
A new compression molding compound material combines the light weight, strength, and rigidity of carbon fibers with the flexibility and lower cost of glass materials in a composite compatible with automotive production.
Plastic bearings are real and millions of them are in use doing heavy-duty jobs we used to think only metals could do. Some of Germany-based igus's bearings are traveling around the world as functional parts in a car to demonstrate what they can do.
Baxter showed off his 2.0-derived moves at ATX West this year. The big red guy still looks pretty much the same, but has some new abilities, mostly due to software. The research robot version is now being used in corporate R&D departments as a design platform.
End-production using 3D printing, including objects made of multiple materials in one pass, is getting closer to reality as we saw on the exhibit floor at the recent Pacific Design & Manufacturing Show.