Parmy Olson of Forbes.com reported that Airbus has been working on a concept plane built with a 3D printer. The photo below is the concept plane to be made circa 2050.
This scale of object is much bigger than any 3D printer can make today. According to Parmy Olson,
Bastian Schafer, a cabin designer with Airbus, has been working for the last two years on a concept plane that would be built from the ground up with a 3D printer that's very large in deed, ie. as big as an aircraft hanger.
Schafer's design comes with a roadmap, from 3D-printing small components now, through to the plane as a whole around 2050.
Why use 3D printing at all? Airbus parent EADS has been looking into using the process, known as additive layer manufacturing, for making aircraft for some time because it's potentially cheaper, and can result in components that are 65% ligher than with traditional manufacturing methods. Schafer's concept plane is also so dizzyingly complicated that it requires radical manufacturing methods: from the curved fuselage to the bionic structure, to the transparent skin that gives passengers a panoramic view of the sky and clouds around them.
"It would have to be about 80 by 80 meters," said Schafer of the eventual, yet-to-be-created 3D printer. "This could be feasible."
In 2010 Schafer and 10 other industrial designers started brainstorming and came up with the current, 3D printed concept design.
"Now we'd like to create even bigger parts in the mid-term up to 2013," said Schafer. "Printed components of a seat or other structural components inside the cabin, and we have 20 years to scale this up."
However this Airbus concept plane's bionic structure requires materials that aren't available yet, such as strong-yet-transparent aluminum for the fuselage, certain biopolymers and other materials strengthened by carbon nano tubes. So designing and producing right materials is still a challenge for the team.
Meanwhile, Airbus has already used 3D-printed parts to help fly the massive A380. Using 3D printing, Airbus has created intricate forms out of high-grade metal and these 3D-printed parts are stronger and lighter than what we made with traditional manufacturing processes.
New models of Airbus' Eurofighter Typhoon, a military jet, already contain non-structural parts of its air-conditioning unit that have been 3D printed, Schafer said.
Posted in 3D Printing Applications
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