A while back we wrote an article about Airbus and its focus on a 3D printed aviation future. The ideas were astonishing and seemed limitless. Now I stumbled upon a Tedtalk of Bastian Schaefer, who runs this development team, where he explains a bit more about where he thinks the future of aviation is going. You got to love the 3D printing future!
In our article World’s biggest and fastest 3D printer in the making you can read about Airbus taking a lot of interest in the 3D printing technology. But they are not the only aviation giant looking at the possibilities of 3D printing. Teams across the Boeing enterprise are using 3D printing in a plethora of ways, including fit check models, shop aids, tool mock-ups and visualization models.
“3D printing allows us to model data analysis in an innovative way. Being able to see different levels of stress on a part can be very helpfully for our employees and customers,” said Dan Seal, Immersive Development program manager.
In May this year Boeing already showed their interest in 3D technology by announcing their experiment of applying 3D scanning technology on the 747 line in its Everett plant. This scanning technology can gather information and make thousands of measurements. With a high degree of accuracy 3D images are created of the measured objects.
While many uses for the 3D printing technology have already been identified, the ImDev team continues to seek additional ideas from across the enterprise.
“We’ve already seen 3D printing be used in a multitude of innovative ways all across Boeing,” noted Seal. “We want everyone to be aware of the technology approach us if there is another application we haven’t thought of yet. We want to leverage this technology to help teams across Boeing.”
Now that both Airbus and Boeing are showing high interest in this technology, 3D printing is well on its way to becoming THE manufacturing technology for aviation.
Imagine a spacecraft that could build itself by scavenging materials from space junk or asteroids.
The “SpiderFab” project from Tethers Unlimited Inc. just received $100,000 from NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts project to invest in designing and realizing a self-constrution device that could realize just that using the 3D printing technology. The practical planning and additional funding could lead to the launch of a 3D printing test mission within several years.
The aim of this project is to cut space mission costs and boost the capabilities by making much lighter and larger structures in space. Robert Hoyt, CEO and chief scientist of Tethers Unlimited Inc, said in an interview with InnovationNewsDaily that using 3D printers to build spacecraft parts in orbit would offer an easier way to construct huge space antennas or space telescope components 10 or 20 times larger than today’s counterparts without having to fold them up and squeeze them inside a rocket . The missions could simply launch with the 3D printers and raw materials. Structures send into space nowadays have to be made out of heavier components that can not only stand up to Earth’s gravity, but can also survive the shaking and acceleration of rocket launchers.
“We’d like someday to be able to have a spacecraft create itself entirely from scratch, but realistically that’s quite a ways out. That’s still science fiction.” Said Hoyt.
We are very curious how this project will fold out. If you’re interested in reading the full interview you can visit Space.com
With yesterdays success of NASA’s daring Curiosity landing, we’re one step closer to putting actual humans on this dessert planet. Therefore NASA engineers are testing a next-generation rover designed to support humans when we entually land on Mars. The most interesting part is that this super rover has seventy end-use parts 3D printed with FDM technology.
The rover, about the size of a Hummer and boasting a pressurized cabin to support humans in space, is being put to the test in the Arizona dessert. It holds two astronauts, has two small beds, twelve wheels on six axles, and an observation bubble so astronauts can get up close and personal with some Martian soil.
Stratasys FDM technology
A Stratasys FDM machine was used for its 3D printed parts. NASA uses ABS, PCABS and polycarbonate materials. The FDM technique patented by Stratasys is the only technique that supports production-grade thermoplastics, which are lightweight but durable enough for rugged end-use parts.
NASA engineers also 3D print prototypes to test form, fit and function of parts they’ll eventually build in other materials. This ensures machined parts are based on the best possible design by solving challenges before committing to expensive tooling. “Everyone’s got a budget to deal with, and we’re no different,” says Chapman.
NASA claims that the Stratasys FDM technology is the only technology tough enough for such applications. Failure is not an option. “You always want it to be as light as possible, but you also want it to be strong enough that it’s got your safety factors, that nobody’s going to get hurt. You’re going at several thousand miles per hour just to escape the Earth’s atmosphere. So you’ve got to be able to handle all these vibrations just to get out into space, and the vehicle can’t be damaged.” NASA test engineer Chris Chapman says.