While I'v got an affection for plastics, I think it does have its limitations. There will need to be a lot more empirical testing of plastic in airplane body parts before the general public will be ready to fly in a plastic plane.
Alcoa calls this product a "third-generation" aluminum-lithium alloy. The "second-generation" aluminum-lithium alloys have been around since at least the 1980s. They are used fairly extensively in space applications, with the best-known being the Space Shuttle external tank. They are also used in military aerospace applications (for example, the MiG-29M airframe). However, they are less widely used in commercial applications. I think the biggest reasons are cost and unfamiliarity. Another issue is anisotropy of properties, although this is an issue with composites as well. Alcoa claims to have addressed this with the new generation of alloys: http://www.alcoa.com/global/en/innovation/papers_patents/pdf/LMT2007_110.pdf
Wow. Looking at the link to the information about these alloys, it makes you wonder why their use isn't more widespread: lower density; higher tensile strengths; higher elastic modulus. Where've these alloys been up to now?
Altair has released an update of its HyperWorks computer-aided engineering simulation suite that includes new features focusing on four key areas of product design: performance optimization, lightweight design, lead-time reduction, and new technologies.
At IMTS last week, Stratasys introduced two new multi-materials PolyJet 3D printers, plus a new UV-resistant material for its FDM production 3D printers. They can be used in making jigs and fixtures, as well as prototypes and small runs of production parts.
In a line of ultra-futuristic projects, DARPA is developing a brain microchip that will help heal the bodies and minds of soldiers. A final product is far off, but preliminary chips are already being tested.
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