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.
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.