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.
An in-depth survey of 700 current and future users of 3D printing holds few surprises, but results emphasize some major trends already in progress. Two standouts are the big growth in end-use parts and metal additive manufacturing (AM) most respondents expect.
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