Design issues on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner get almost as much scrutiny as Tiger Woods pulling out of his driveway. The latest issue is the status of the much-discussed fix to the midsection of the composite fuselage.
Some composite material surrounding bolt holes delaminated during recent tests, but the issue isn’t expected to slow the first test flight of the Dreamliner. The delamination occurred in areas around metal plugs that are installed after exposure to liquid nitrogen. The bolts expand as they thaw.
A Boeing spokesperson said: “The freeze plug process is a standard repair we perform on both metallic and composite structure. We have extensive experience using these techniques. We have not seen any issues with these repairs that are inconsistent with our experience or the capability of these repair techniques.”
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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