Two years ago, Boeing was in the news because fastener supplies were causing production problems for the new Dreamliner 787 aircraft.
Today, the news is much brighter for the Dreamliner and its fastener supply. Aerospace fastener manufacturer Saturn Fasteners, an operation of Acument Global Technologies, announced it has received a 2009 Boeing Performance Excellence Award. Saturn Fasteners has provided Boeing with custom assembly products for its aircraft programs since its founding in 1989. The company’s statement did not specify particular Boeing programs, such as the Dreamliner.
Another interesting assembly development comes from Greene, Tweed & Co., which makes net shape thermoplastic carbon-reinforced brackets for aircraft applications. The brackets cut weight up to 80 percent compared to the steel or aluminum brackets they replace. It is not clear which programs the new composite brackets will be used on, but the Dreamliner would certainly seem to be a candidate. Boeing is looking for ways to cut weight on the Dreamliner, which at last unoffical report was 8 percent above design weight. The extra weight results in part from extra strengthening required to solve potential delamination problems. The problem takes cash out of Boeing’s pocket because the promised range of the 787 is cut by 10-15 percent. Boeing officials have said they are taking steps to reduce weight, but no specifics have been released yet. Potentially hundreds of the brackets could be used on a single aircraft. Greene, Tweed installed one ProFusion press last year, and is installing two more this year.
Alcoa has unveiled a new manufacturing and materials technology for making aluminum sheet, aimed especially at automotive, industrial, and packaging applications. If all its claims are true, this is a major breakthrough, and may convince more automotive engineers to use aluminum.
NASA has just installed a giant robot to help in its research on composite aerospace materials, like those used for the Orion spacecraft. The agency wants to shave the time it takes to get composites through design, test, and manufacturing stages.
The European Space Agency (ESA) is working with architects Foster + Partners to test the possibility of using lunar regolith, or moon rocks, and 3D printing to make structures for use on the moon. A new video shows some cool animations of a hypothetical lunar mission that carries out this vision.
If there's one thing 3D printing's good for, it's customization. New Balance Athletic Shoe Company has begun using 3D printing to make customized spike plates for its running shoes made for members of its Team New Balance runners. They provide better traction and shave off a tiny bit of weight.
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