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.
The new composites manufacturing innovation center is intended to be a source of grand challenges for industry, like the kind that got us to the moon under JFK. These aren't the words its new CEO Craig Blue used, but that's the idea and the vision behind the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation (IACMI).
The 100% solar-powered airplane Solar Impulse 2 is prepping for its upcoming flight, becoming the first plane to fly around the world without using fuel. It's able to do so because of above-average performance by all of the technologies that go into it, especially materials.
As the 3D printing and overall additive manufacturing ecosystem grows, standards and guidelines from standards bodies and government organizations are increasing. Multiple players with multiple needs are also driving the role of 3DP and AM as enabling technologies for distributed manufacturing.
A growing though not-so-obvious role for 3D printing, 4D printing, and overall additive manufacturing is their use in fabricating new materials and enabling new or improved manufacturing and assembly processes. Individual engineers, OEMs, university labs, and others are reinventing the technology to suit their own needs.
For vehicles to meet the 2025 Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, three things must happen: customers must look beyond the data sheet and engage materials supplier earlier, and new integrated multi-materials are needed to make step-change improvements.
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