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 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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