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.
Optomec's third America Makes project for metal 3D printing teams the LENS process company with GE Aviation, Lockheed, and other big aerospace names to develop guidelines for repairing high-value flight-critical Air Force components.
A self-propelled robot developed by a team of researchers headed by MIT promises to detect leaks quickly and accurately in gas pipelines, eliminating the likelihood of dangerous explosions. The robot may also be useful in water and petroleum pipe leak detection.
Aerojet Rocketdyne has built and successfully hot-fire tested an entire 3D-printed rocket engine. In other news, NASA's 3D-printed rocket engine injectors survived tests generating a record 20,000 pounds of thrust. Some performed equally well or better than welded parts.
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