There’s a revolution in technology to make planes lighter. Use of composites in the Boeing 787 Dreamliner is well known. Not so well known is a new hexagonal honeycomb core material made of polylactic acid for lightweight panels. The biobased material also has the benefit of a smaller carbon dioxide footprint than oil-based plastics. In the last six months, a Belgian company called EconCore has optimized the production technology to produce PLA-based hexagonal honeycomb cores using a continuous production process. Moments after a core is produced, skin layers are added in a second step of the continuous production process.
Skins could be made from unfilled PLA material to make a mono material panel or, in case a higher performance is required, could be replaced with consolidated flax in a PLA matrix. One potential application is aircraft interiors, which currently use a polypropylene honeycomb material. The new technology was launched at the recent JEC Composites show in Paris.
A self-propelled robot developed by a team of researchers headed by MIT promises to detect leaks quickly and accurately in gas pipelines, eliminating the likelihood of dangerous explosions. The robot may also be useful in water and petroleum pipe leak detection.
Aerojet Rocketdyne has built and successfully hot-fire tested an entire 3D-printed rocket engine. In other news, NASA's 3D-printed rocket engine injectors survived tests generating a record 20,000 pounds of thrust. Some performed equally well or better than welded parts.
Researchers at MIT's d'Arbeloff Laboratory are developing shoulder- and hip-mounted robotic arms to help workers in aircraft manufacturing perform difficult or complex assembly tasks that would normally require two people.
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