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.
How can automakers, aerospace contractors, and other OEMs get new metal alloys that are stronger, harder, and can survive ever higher temperatures? One way is to redesign their crystalline structures at the nanoscale and microscale.
Although a lot of the excitement about 3D printing and additive manufacturing surrounds its ability to make end-products and functional prototypes, some often ignored applications are the big improvements that can come by using it for tooling, jigs, and fixtures.
A fun and informative tour you can attend at the upcoming Design & Manufacturing Minneapolis, MD&M Minneapolis, and other events there, is the Materials Innovation Tour on Wednesday afternoon. I'll be leading it.
Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies.
You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived.
So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.