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.
BMW has already incorporated more than 10,000 3D-printed parts in the Rolls-Royce Phantom and intends to expand the use of 3D printing in its cars even more in the future. Meanwhile, Daimler has started using additive manufacturing for producing spare parts in Mercedes-Benz Trucks.
SABIC's lightweighting polycarbonate glazing materials have appeared for the first time in a production car: the rear quarter window of Toyota's special edition 86 GRMN sports car, where they're saving 50% of its weight compared to conventional glass.
Design engineers play a big role in selecting both suppliers and materials for their designs. Our most recent Design News Materials Survey says they continue to be highly involved, in some ways even more than the last time we asked to peek inside their cubicles.
Daihatsu is one of the first carmakers to customize car exteriors using 3D printing's mass customization capabilities. Effect Skins -- small exterior bumper and fender panels in different colors and textures -- can be ordered for its Copen convertible.
Several new products in this group of new adhesives, coatings, and sealants are formulated to protect sensitive electronic components, or to seal components of commercial and military aircraft. Others are designed to operate in tough, messy, dirty oil & gas operations, or for rotary applications and motors.
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