Based on the headlines, it may seem like aircraft construction is racing toward plastic composites, with little hope left for aluminum. Well, don’t tell that to the aluminum guys. As reported here previously, Alcoa has been developing new alloys, composites and designs. There’s another to report now: scientists at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands have received a patent for a fiber metal laminate (FML) called CentrAl reinforced aluminum. The structure includes aluminum alloys, adhesives and poly-paraphenylene terephthalamide threads. It has better tensile strength than alloys, and also boasts good metal fatigue and damage tolerance characteristics. And get this: a wing made from the composite would be one-fifth lighter than a wing made from plastic composites. The new composite has thicker laminate layers than the Glare used in the Airbus A380. The Air Force may use the material to replace wing sections in C130s. Development partners are Alcoa and GTM Advanced Structures.
How 3D printing fits into the digital thread, and the relationship between its uses for prototyping and for manufacturing, was the subject of a talk by Proto Labs' Rich Baker at last week's Design & Manufacturing Minneapolis.
How can automakers, aerospace contractors, and other OEMs get new metal alloys that are stronger, harder, and can survive ever higher temperatures? One way is to redesign their crystalline structures at the nanoscale and microscale.
Although a lot of the excitement about 3D printing and additive manufacturing surrounds its ability to make end-products and functional prototypes, some often ignored applications are the big improvements that can come by using it for tooling, jigs, and fixtures.
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