Boeing engineers are in the process of replacing the wiring design used for the Dreamliners. It’s not a fix-it’s part of a plan to optimize weight and configuration of wiring bundles starting with plane number seven. The first six planes had flight test wiring that will be replaced as part of an overall refurbishing.As part of the overall materials revolution that the Dreamliner represents, some lightweight aluminum wiring will be used instead of copper. “We use both,” says Boeing spokesperson Lori Gunter, “There are different design considerations. We select the material that is appropriate for the intended use.”
Gunter did not provide specifics, but the design rules for aluminum and copper used as wiring are the following:
Aluminum is 50 percent lighter than copper and can save weight in the aircraft.
Copper bends more easily than aluminum.
Corrosion is a significant concern for aluminum wiring. Airbus engineers developed a special protection for aluminum wiring. There are also new specifications for connections.
Artificially created metamaterials are already appearing in niche applications like electronics, communications, and defense, says a new report from Lux Research. How quickly they become mainstream depends on cost-effective manufacturing methods, which will include additive manufacturing.
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.
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