Demand for new aircraft is growing at a higher rate than previously predicted, Airbus announced as it began work on the first carbon composite barrel for the A350 XWB fuselage in Spain. Almost 26,000 new passenger and freighter aircraft valued at $3.2 trillion will be needed between 2010 and 2029, to satisfy demand according to Airbus’ Global Market Forecast.
Demand for very large passenger and freighter aircraft like the A380, represents 18 percent of the dollar value at $570 billion. Airbus has 573 firm orders for the A350, which is projected to enter service in late 2014. Demand is being driven in part for customers pushing for more fuel-efficient aircraft, a major selling point of the composite-bodied aircraft.
Airbus had originally planned to use new aluminum-lithium alloys in the fuselage of the A350, but shifted to carbon composite after the early marketing success of the Boeing Dreamliner 787. The Airbus barrel now under construction is 5.5 meters long and will fit at the rear of the aircraft.
Artificially created metamaterials are already appearing in niche applications like electronics, communications, and defense, says a new report from Lux Research. How quickly they become mainstream depends on cost-effective manufacturing methods, which will include additive manufacturing.
SpaceX has 3D printed and successfully hot-fired a SuperDraco engine chamber made of Inconel, a high-performance superalloy, using direct metal laser sintering (DMLS). The company's first 3D-printed rocket engine part, a main oxidizer valve body for the Falcon 9 rocket, launched in January and is now qualified on all Falcon 9 flights.
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and MIT have 3D-printed a new class of metamaterials that are both exceptionally light and have exceptional strength and stiffness. The new metamaterials maintain a nearly constant stiffness per unit of mass density, over three orders of magnitude.
Smart composites that let the material's structural health be monitored automatically and continuously are getting closer to reality. R&D partners in an EU-sponsored project have demonstrated what they say is the first complete, miniaturized, fiber-optic sensor system entirely embedded inside a fiber-reinforced composite.
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