When most people imagine the future of aircraft, they think of getting to their destinations faster, safer, and in greater comfort. Achieving each of these goals comes down to design principles and, to achieve them, many of the new aircraft designs are using some innovative modeling and materials approaches. Here is how Airbus is creating the aircraft of the future using generative design techniques, combined with additive manufacturing concepts.
What is Generative Design?
In the past, creating a new product or improving on a design could take years of trial and error. Generative design has significantly shortened that process through the use of technology. This process allows the designer to state their goals, and then the system will explore all of the possible permutations until the best solution is selected.
Additive Manufacturing Concepts
Once generative design software has narrowed down choices from the millions to just one or two top concepts, these designs can be produced using additive manufacturing systems. An additive manufacturing system is essentially an industrial 3D printing system where parts and components are created layer-upon-layer using a variety of diverse materials.
Creating the Airbus of the Future
Both generative design and additive manufacturing are allowing Airbus to create some groundbreaking concepts for their future aircraft. One of its first designs was a bionic partition, which will be the new wall separating the crew from passengers. Using generative design techniques, Airbus was able to create a wall that was 45 percent lighter than the old partition and much more functional.
Made of a material called “slime mold,” the new Airbus partition achieves fuels savings with its reduced weight. The bionic partition also produced better deflection (in the event of a crash) due to the unique materials used. These partitions were created using three different 3D printers, which produced 116 parts, with connecting components.
In addition to the bionic partition, Airbus is using generative design and additive manufacturing techniques to develop other concepts for its aircraft that includes:
- Bionic Structures – The bionic partition is just the beginning. Airbus is considering the design of an entire fuselage that is based on the bone structure of a bird, which will reduce weight and deliver a stronger aircraft.
- Composite Materials – Just like the slime mold used in the bionic partition, the aircraft and parts of the future will likely be constructed with a new set of materials. These could be solid, a composite of fluid and gas, or morphing materials that change shape in response to environmental factors.
- Biopolymer membranes – Imagine an aircraft with no windows that instead has a biopolymer membrane which makes it transparent on command. Not only will passengers get stunning views with this material, but the planes will be lighter and more fuel-efficient.
- Self-Reliant Materials – In designing these new aircrafts, materials are just as important as the structures. Airbus is looking at some materials and coatings that are both self-cleaning and self-repairing. Imagine a wing being struck midflight that is quickly able to repair itself.
We are clearly living in a world of exponential changes in technology. Just as today’s air travel has made leaps and bounds beyond those of the last century, the future of aircraft is green and definitely exciting thanks to the new technologies that Airbus is employing in its designs.
Article Submitted By Community Writer