Delays in the Boeing Dreamliner 787 continue to propel major ripples throughout the airplane’s supply chain.
The latest pain came yesterday when titanium supplier RTI International of Pittsburgh announced an operating loss for the fourth quarter of $86.9 million versus operating income of $5.4 million for the same period in 2008.
CEO Dawne S. Hickton, commented: “In addition to the global economic upheaval, our commercial aerospace customers experienced extended program delays, resulting in significantly reduced current need for titanium mill products and fabricated parts. These issues had a profound adverse impact in the year on our Fabrication Group, primarily related to the 787 Dreamliner.” Most affected are the company’s extrusion facility in Houston and machining unit outside Montreal.
In addition, Airbus’ challenges with the A400 military transport and the A380 contributed to RTI’s Titanium Group operating at less than 50 percent capacity. Airbus has advised RTI that during 2010 it will require less than half of its 5 million pound contract minimum. RTI’s mill product shipments for the fourth quarter were 2.2 million pounds at an average realized price of $20.86 per pound, compared to mill product shipments of 3.0 million pounds in the fourth quarter of 2008 at an average realized price of $22.04 per pound.
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.
3D printing, 4D printing, and various types of additive manufacturing (AM) will get even bigger in 2015. We're not talking about consumer use, which gets most of the attention, but processes and technologies that will affect how design engineers design products and how manufacturing engineers make them. For now, the biggest industries are still aerospace and medical, while automotive and architecture continue to grow.
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