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.
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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