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.
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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