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.
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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