Alcoa's aluminum-lithium alloys reduce weight for structural components, such as this stretch-formed fuselage panel for a single aisle airplane, developed by Alcoa and Spirit AeroSystems for the 2011 Paris Air Show. (Source: Alcoa)
It really shouldn't be a surprise that composites are not the be all and end all of advanced structures. Aluminum has served the aircraft industries well and is (relatively speaking) a fail-safe material...dings, dents and cracks are all fixable in aluminum....dings in composites you don't know about until you've got 12 feet of delamination flapping in the breeze. Dents require trepanning the damage out of the composite and rebuilding the location. Things like leading edges in composites are fine until you have a bird strike then it's easier to replace the whole leading edge. A bird strike on an aluminum leading edge is field fixable by any competent sheet metal basher...most get you home fixes are good enough for a number of flights since the pilot will be able to view the fix and make a decision on whether to fly. Try making the same decision on a composite fix and you don't know whether its good bad or indifferent. Alcoa et al are not going to go out of business because the new fad is composites...in fact they've still got a lot up their sleeves....variations in ARALL and GLARE are just two of the aluminum/composite hybrids that'll run circles around pure composites
BASF's website at the link Susan gives below has a clickable overall diagram of the numerous types of plastics and other materials for an airplane manufactured by the company. While high-level, I found this info helpful in my background research. Clicking on any of the categories leads to a different diagram giving more detail. For example, the high-level diagram on the structural materials page
gives an idea of where different types of composites, thermoplastics, PIM and polyurethane materials might be used in an aircraft.
I see this technology as being useful in the manufacture of jackscrews, ths component that is often used to actuate control surfaces. If it was constructed of a lightweight plastic with a low coefficent of friction, this would be less inertia needed to move the jackscrew (energy saving for the drive motor) and could possibly lessen the need for lubrication substances. Remember the Alaska Airlines DC-9 that crashed due to failure of the jackscrew from inadequate/wrong tytpe of grease?
sometimes new ideas generate new discovweries, consider a study of all species of bird feathers and the incredible design weight, lift, etc etc, flexible wings to use both mechanical power and atmospheric changes , perhaps the ultra lights culd take on a new perspective> my wing collection has some very old feathers that have not changed over time as I keep studing these designs which are incredible' I think there is legislation forbading feather collections, but I have a deep native american background, the race card and holocaust is not in my deck. My spirit remembers the genocide of americas 20,000 tribes, and the role buffalo soldiers played when freed. I worked for a time at LTV Aerospace in the 60's on the A-7 series, while no bird is powered with fuel they can indeed do some pretty tricky stunts, like gliding for hours, with small wing shifts , in acord with atmospheric variables, fins do compensate to keep on course, but consideration of actual feathers may be in our future. whatever. Birds of prey do reach considerable speed, without any fuel at all,
The amount of plastic clogging the ocean continues to grow. Some startling, not-so-good news has come out recently about the roles plastic is playing in the ocean, as well as more heartening news about efforts to collect and reuse it.
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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