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.
SpaceX has 3D printed and successfully hot-fired a SuperDraco engine chamber made of Inconel, a high-performance superalloy, using direct metal laser sintering (DMLS). The company's first 3D-printed rocket engine part, a main oxidizer valve body for the Falcon 9 rocket, launched in January and is now qualified on all Falcon 9 flights.
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and MIT have 3D-printed a new class of metamaterials that are both exceptionally light and have exceptional strength and stiffness. The new metamaterials maintain a nearly constant stiffness per unit of mass density, over three orders of magnitude.
Smart composites that let the material's structural health be monitored automatically and continuously are getting closer to reality. R&D partners in an EU-sponsored project have demonstrated what they say is the first complete, miniaturized, fiber-optic sensor system entirely embedded inside a fiber-reinforced composite.
The amount of plastic clogging the ocean continues to grow. Some startling, not-so-good news has come out recently about the roles plastic is playing in the ocean, as well as more heartening news about efforts to collect and reuse it.
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