The Boeing 787 Dreamliner has been boom and bust for fastener suppliers. When production of the aircraft first began, a shortage of fasteners slowed the assembly lines. Now, there’s a glut of fasteners in the supply chain. “We probably haven’t seen an order for a fastener on a 787 or a (Airbus) A380 for the better part of two years,” says Bill Christopher, the executive vice president of Alcoa. Distributors bought a large supply of fasteners for the aircraft-essentially on speculation-before the economy nosedived and the 787 encountered design and production problems. It’s now more than three years late but the first delivery is now expected later this year. The A380 also experienced delays. Christopher told analysts in New York last month that he expects normal fastener demand for the aircraft to resume later this year as well. Fasteners are close to a billion dollar business ($868 million in 2010) at Alcoa.
A new compression molding compound material combines the light weight, strength, and rigidity of carbon fibers with the flexibility and lower cost of glass materials in a composite compatible with automotive production.
Plastic bearings are real and millions of them are in use doing heavy-duty jobs we used to think only metals could do. Some of Germany-based igus's bearings are traveling around the world as functional parts in a car to demonstrate what they can do.
Baxter showed off his 2.0-derived moves at ATX West this year. The big red guy still looks pretty much the same, but has some new abilities, mostly due to software. The research robot version is now being used in corporate R&D departments as a design platform.
End-production using 3D printing, including objects made of multiple materials in one pass, is getting closer to reality as we saw on the exhibit floor at the recent Pacific Design & Manufacturing Show.