One of the big engineering questions with the Boeing Dreamliner was how to provide lightning strike protection in a plastic-bodied aircraft. Composites have up to 1,000 times less electrical conductivity than aluminum, increasing the potential for damage
The average airliner is struck by lightning once or twice a year. Boeing added conductive material to the composites to provide a pathway for lightning strikes. The added weight, especially on the wing where fuel is stored, was one of the factors that pushed the Dreamliner above its target weight.
The Dreamliner successfully endured its first lightning strike in a test flight last year. But Boeing is exploring a new materials’ solution to protect composite-bodied aircraft from lightning strikes, according to Boeing’s Andy Harber, who made the comment in a question-and-answer session following a presentation at AeroCon in Anaheim, CA last week. Harber, who is senior project manager-design engineering at Boeing, did not provide any specifics.
As the 3D printing and overall additive manufacturing ecosystem grows, standards and guidelines from standards bodies and government organizations are increasing. Multiple players with multiple needs are also driving the role of 3DP and AM as enabling technologies for distributed manufacturing.
A growing though not-so-obvious role for 3D printing, 4D printing, and overall additive manufacturing is their use in fabricating new materials and enabling new or improved manufacturing and assembly processes. Individual engineers, OEMs, university labs, and others are reinventing the technology to suit their own needs.
For vehicles to meet the 2025 Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, three things must happen: customers must look beyond the data sheet and engage materials supplier earlier, and new integrated multi-materials are needed to make step-change improvements.
3D printing, 4D printing, and various types of additive manufacturing (AM) will get even bigger in 2015. We're not talking about consumer use, which gets most of the attention, but processes and technologies that will affect how design engineers design products and how manufacturing engineers make them. For now, the biggest industries are still aerospace and medical, while automotive and architecture continue to grow.
More and more -- that's what we'll see from plastics and composites in 2015, more types of plastics and more ways they can be used. Two of the fastest-growing uses will be automotive parts, plus medical implants and devices. New types of plastics will include biodegradable materials, plastics that can be easily recycled, and some that do both.
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