Jun 22, 2015 | By Simon

It’s no secret that the use of additive manufacturing to create low cost and one-of-a-kind custom parts is one of the hottest topics in the aerospace industry right now.  

Whether the parts - which are more often than not created using the direct metal laser sintering (DMLS) technique - are used for creating prototype parts for next-generation aircraft, interior cabin details or even for the multi-million dollar aircraft engines themselves, their use is increasing on a seemingly weekly basis.  

More recently, Boeing has been developing their ecoDemonstrator 757 aircraft that, among other things, is focused on more than 15 eco-friendly technologies that improve aviation’s environmental performance.  Among others, these  include the use of ‘green diesel’ fuel and solar and thermal energy harvesting to power electric windows, reduce the amount of wiring needed as well as decrease the amount of fuel needed.   

Among other technologies that are being tested on the new 757 that might be of interest to those in the additive manufacturing industry however, is Boeing’s decision to install a 3D-printed aisle stand made from excess carbon fiber from 787 production to re-purpose this high-value material and reduce airplane weight and factory waste.

"With the ecoDemonstrator, Boeing looks to reduce environmental impact through the airplane's lifecycle, from improving fuel efficiency and cutting carbon emissions to recycling production materials," says Boeing’s Vice President of Product Development, Mike Sinnett.

"In addition to our new technologies, flying the ecoDemonstrator 757 with U.S.-made green diesel is another positive step toward reducing our industry's use of fossil fuel."

Through a partnership with NASA, the prototype jet successfully from Boeing’s air field in Seattle to NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia on June 17th.  During the flight, the jet used a blend of 95-percent petroleum jet fuel and 5-percent sustainable green diesel.  

While 5 percent may not seem like a huge impact, it is only the beginning of a larger effort by Boeing to improve green diesel for commercial aviation by amending the HEFA biojet specification approved in 2011.  The fuel is created from waste animal fats, inedible corn oil and used cooking oil.  It creates up to 80-percent less emissions than traditional fossil fuel.   

"We have been thrilled with the data we were able to obtain from our experiments during the ecoDemonstrator 757 flight campaign, and are excited about the impact these NASA-developed technologies will have on the U.S. air transportation industry," said Ed Waggoner, director of NASA's Integrated Aviation Systems Program.

As we continue to look for ways to live more sustainably on Earth, it would only make sense to look for ways to make traveling by air a sustainable practice, too.  While the use of biofuels and sustainable energy harvesting are sure to make a significant impact over time, it’s also interesting to see how much of an impact additive manufacturing can have on large-scale commercial projects such as this, too.  



Posted in 3D Printing Applications



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