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.
An MIT research team has invented what they see as a solution to the need for biodegradable 3D-printable materials made from something besides petroleum-based sources: a water-based robotic additive extrusion method that makes objects from biodegradable hydrogel composites.
Alcoa has unveiled a new manufacturing and materials technology for making aluminum sheet, aimed especially at automotive, industrial, and packaging applications. If all its claims are true, this is a major breakthrough, and may convince more automotive engineers to use aluminum.
NASA has just installed a giant robot to help in its research on composite aerospace materials, like those used for the Orion spacecraft. The agency wants to shave the time it takes to get composites through design, test, and manufacturing stages.
The European Space Agency (ESA) is working with architects Foster + Partners to test the possibility of using lunar regolith, or moon rocks, and 3D printing to make structures for use on the moon. A new video shows some cool animations of a hypothetical lunar mission that carries out this vision.
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