I'm a bit surprised the re-design would only yield 10 to 12 percent fuel savings. It seems that number of changes would produce a greater savings. Perhaps the earlier models were already designed for efficiency.
You probably know way more about this than I do, TJ. I was just thinking in terms on how inefficient automation devices and vehicles were in the past. So it seemed there must be significant gains to be made one you concentrate on energy savings. As an example, efficient motors and drives are driving down energy consumption 15 to 35 percent. Perhaps Boeing was not so inefficient going into the drive for efficiency.
@Rob- Actually 10-12% reduction in fuel burn is huge! For example the winglets that are being retrofitted to airliners create a 2-3% reduction in fuel burn. That seems minor but the airlines are willing to pay about $300k per plane for the retrofit. (Someone may have more accurate cost figures).
Fuel efficiency improvements mean less fuel cost (#1 expense for airlines), and also allows more payload and longer range routes. Additional payload capability adds up to several hundred dollars revenue per pound, annually for a 737-class airplane.
Given that Kenish, I can understand why 10 to 12 percent is a significant number. It just seems small comparred to the kind of efficiency gains we're anticipating from the auto industry for the coming years. I can see it's a matter of scale.
Yes, Chuck, that's a significant advance in less than 15 years. What do you think the changes are? Do you expect it to be gradual? Will it require creating a different mix of models to emphasize smaller, more efficient cars? What affect will that have on the buying public? Would a Republican administration strip away those requirements?
Rob, 10-12% is a lot for commercial aircraft, compared to cars, for several reasons, primarily the math: a commercial plane is a lot bigger, and has a zillion more parts, which are sourced from many different component manufacturers. Also, a lot of materials lightweighting has already been done in aircraft, for several decades now, so there's proportionately less and less that can be changed or redesigned from that standpoint. Lightweighting efforts in much smaller and simpler cars are much more recent, so there's still a lot of proportionately bigger changes that can be made, and many of the big gains in cars have come from lightweighting materials and related redesigns.
From the article, I got the impression that the majority of the savings were aerodynamic related. I did see weight reduction mentioned also (for the fly by wire change), but the design changes didn't seem to focus on removal of weight.
From the picture and the article, I also noted the larger engines that are now directly attached to the wing (which appear to be a noticeable change from the older 737's that I remember when I was younger).
There are many efficieny improvements on this airpolane over the 40 year history of the plane. One of the more interesting aspects is the ability to retrofit many onto the older aircraft.
The 737 is arguably the most popular commercial aircraft ever. Wtih over 7000 delivered and orders for more than 2500 more it will soon pass the 10K delivery mark.
The ability of Boeing engineers to continuously improve the design and performance is testament to not only their ingenuity but also to a great design.
The new and improved wingtips are one of the more noticeable improvements. The blended engine and wing design is apparent to those with a more discerning eye.
For a long time the engines were seperated from the wing structure as a safety feature when the engines were not so reliable. The improved ability to service a pylon mounted engine was also a significant consideration. As the reliability and performance of the engines improved the aerodynamic advantages of a blended engine and wing became more attrractive.
A similar blending of the wing and body has also been considered. I suspect the manufacturing considerations are much more significant in a blended wing and body.
I know American Airlines is suffering badly because of fuel costs. It will take a great engineering feat to bring airplanes into the fuel efficient era. It will involve many disciplines. I hope they can pull it off! Wing design, engine design, electronic controls, fuel mixtures, and who knows what else, will make it happen. I am sure they have things in the "wings" that will surprise us all!
I just watched a movie about American (they must have said "largest airline in the world" at least two dozen times). AA is attaching extended tail cone's on their existing fleet themselves since the cost reduction (from having Boeing do it) was substantial. That implies that the fuel savings from that change alone is worthy of implementation. Although, I wonder what liability they are taking on by doing it themselves.
I also agree that 10% is a substantial number. With the amount of fuel they go through, the dollar savings will be HUGE over the lifetime of the airframe. Also, with airline margins as slim as they are, any improvement could be the difference between chapter 11 and profitability.
The improvements in effeciency have been incremental in the 737. The passenger capacity, and altitude have increased significantly over the years. I imagine it is 40% more efficient than the old 737-100. An improvement of 10%-12% above the last generation is quite an accomplishment.
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