Airbus is expanding the use of fiber-reinforced materials, slashing weight by 25 percent over aluminum. But as usage increases, so does the likelihood reinforced parts will crack. Though cracks in fiber-reinforced materials expand more slowly as they grow, pilots and passengers would still like to know these cracks are spotted and fixed quickly. Airbus is working with Belgian sensor maker XenICs to integrate long, fiber-like sensors within fiber-reinforced plastic components. The resulting in-flight aircraft structural analysis system will monitor the internal health of crucial structural components continuously during flight. Up to 40 sensor fields can be evaluated simultaneously within one fiber.
An in-depth survey of 700 current and future users of 3D printing holds few surprises, but results emphasize some major trends already in progress. Two standouts are the big growth in end-use parts and metal additive manufacturing (AM) most respondents expect.
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