The plastic composite avalanche for aircraft is gaining speed. Hexcel, one of three major suppliers of carbon fiber composites, received a contract worth more than $4 billion to supply material for the Airbus A350 XWB aircraft through 2025. Airbus already has 360 firm orders for its A350 XWB, which includes three versions.
"Given that the A350 has roughly $5 million to $6 million of composite content per plane and this is only the first award to be announced, there is still a significant amount of content to be won by Hexcel and the other two composite producers, Cytec and Toray," said Credit Suisse analyst John McNulty. "In the event that [Hexcel] can get as much penetration on the A350 as they have with Airbus’s A380 platform–about 75.0%–this would equate to a potential of roughly $4.5 million per plane, and HXL is very optimistic on its prospects for future awards," McNulty said.
Hexcel will build significant new capacity, just as Toray did for the 787.
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.
If there's one thing 3D printing's good for, it's customization. New Balance Athletic Shoe Company has begun using 3D printing to make customized spike plates for its running shoes made for members of its Team New Balance runners. They provide better traction and shave off a tiny bit of weight.
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