Boeing will soon be generating enormous amounts of carbon fiber scrap and is looking for a way to use it. According to a fascinating story reported by Plastics Today, about two-thirds of the carbon fiber purchased by Boeing as an aircraft construction material ends up as waste. It wasn’t clear why the percentage is so high. Presumably, the ratio will decline as Boeing and its partners gain more experience using the material. Much of the body of the Dreamliner 787 is made from carbon composites.
The commercial launch of the Dreamliner has been delayed about two years, but testing results are increasingly positive and full-scale production will require huge amounts of carbon fiber. The aircraft was originally expected to become commercial in May 2008, but the best hope now is for the planes to enter service by the end of this year. Boeing hopes to expand production to 10 per month in 2013. Another source of older carbon fiber will be parts from other planes that are being retired.
According to the report by Tony Deligio, Boeing is working with compounder RTP to qualify compounds using the recovered carbon fiber. An RTP Company glass fiber-reinforced PEEK compound is already specified for the hinge bracket assemblies (see photo below) of overhead storage compartments in Boeing 767 airplanes.
A slew of announcements about new materials and design concepts for transportation have come out of several trade shows focusing on plastics, aircraft interiors, heavy trucks, and automotive engineering. A few more announcements have come independent of any trade shows, maybe just because it's spring.
At the JEC Europe 2015 composites show in Paris last month, makers of composite materials, software, and process equipment showed off their latest innovations. This year's show saw some announcements related to automotive applications, but many of the improvements came in the world of aerospace.
The DuPont-sponsored Plastics Industry Trends survey shows engineers want improved performance in a broad range of plastics and better recycling technology. These concerns top even processing enhancements that improve productivity.
Plastics leader SABIC recently announced a global initiative to help its customers take advantage of additive manufacturing (AM) and also advance 3D printing (3DP) technologies in several application areas. The company's plans go way beyond materials, and also include design, processing, and part performance.
A theme that was reflected in several ways at NPE 2015 was the use of 3D printing to assist in, or improve on, injection molding, as well as improvements in 3D printing materials and processes that are making better functional prototypes and end-use parts.
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