Technology has led the modern transportation industry to places that never could have been predicted. From the hyperloop to huge jumbo jets, if you had asked people even just 50 years ago what they thought the future of transportation would look like, it likely wouldn't be anything close to what it actually is today. The combination of large-scale 3D printing and airplanes has really yet to be seen, but researchers from Airbus are trying to realize the dream of creating the world's first 3D printed jumbo jet. Check out the eye-opening TED talk below to see how 3D printed composites will fit in with rigorous aviation standards.
When building bigger and bigger planes, the problem of weight becomes the driving design constraint. Modern machining and manufacturing techniques only allow for a few levels of freedom when designing parts. To clarify, oftentimes, support material and interior material is left in fabricated parts because machining this out would outweigh the benefits of having a lighter part.
This is where 3D printing comes into play. 3D printing will allow airplane manufacturers, like Airbus, to create rigid parts that can take on both curvilinear shapes, as well as hollow ones. Manufacturing aircraft parts in this manner allows for weight to be conserved while simultaneously keeping the necessary strength.
[Image Source: TED]
Airbus believes that the jumbo jet of the future will communicate fully with its passengers to accommodate their individual needs. Not only this, but the claustrophobic windows will be taken away for a more open design, allowing passengers to feel free while on their flight. Most of all, Airbus believes that 3D printing and synthetic materials will revolutionize the ability for aircraft to be lightweight and carry larger quantities of people, efficiently and effectively. Maybe they are just dreams of engineers, but maybe, Airbus will follow through on this proposal and create an airplane that looks drastically different than what exists today.