Published by Airbus Group | www.airbusgroup.com/Airbus-stories
- Autodesk and Airbus have unveiled the world’s largest 3D printed airplane cabin component: a ‘bionic partition’ to separate the passenger cabin from the galley.The innovative design mimics the organic cellular structure and bone growth found in living organisms.
- A partition designed to save weight (and fuel)
Breakthrough for Future Airbus A320
For passengers, it’s a distinctly unremarkable part of a plane’s interior, but for aircraft manufacturers it’s one of many significant pieces in a major engineering puzzle to minimise weight, while retaining great design and infrastructure safety.
Fixed between the passenger seating area and plane’s galley, this particular partition is a dividing wall that in some seating configurations will be used to support the jumpseats used by cabin crews during takeoff and landing. As such, it needs to be strong, which, with traditional materials and manufacturing processes, makes it heavy and bulky.
The new bionic partition’s structure represents a radical departure in that it has dispensed with much of the material, weight and bulk inherent to traditional design. Together, Autodesk and Airbus have harnessed the expertise of 3D printing experts of APWorks, an Airbus Group subsidiary, in a design collaboration with experts on generative design from TheLiving, an Autodesk Studio.
Mimicking Cells and Bones’ Structure
The component was created with custom algorithms that generated a design that mimics cellular structure and bone growth and then produced using 3D printing techniques.
A Disruptive Potential
The result of the project creates sounded expectations: a partition that is structurally very strong but also lightweight, weighing 45% (30 kg) less than current designs. This makes the bionic partition a groundbreaking development for a sector in which less weight equals less fuel consumption.
When applied to the entire cabin and to the current backlog of A320 planes, Airbus estimates that the new design approach could save up to 465,000 metric tonnes of CO2 emissions per year.
Test Flight in 2016
The first phase of testing of the partition has been successfully completed. Further testing will be conducted in 2016, including a test flight on board an A320.
Scalmalloy® – Lightweight, Hi-Strength Material
The New Bionic Partition Uses Scalmalloy®, a Second-Generation Aluminium-Magnesium-Scandium Alloy Created by APWorks, an Airbus Group Subsidiary.APWorks makes proven aerospace technologies and innovations accessible to other industries, focusing on modern production processes such as additive layer manufacturing and advanced materials.
One of these groundbreaking materials is Scalmalloy®. Specifically designed for use in 3D printing, it offers outstanding mechanical properties, meaning it can undergo significant stress and stretching before breaking. This is the first time it has been used on a large scale inside an aircraft component.
“Combining the benefits of metallic 3D printing with new materials like Scalmalloy® can greatly expand the possibilities for modern components. In the bionic partition, Scalmalloy® is proving its power for the aerospace sector.”Joachim Zettler, Managing Director Airbus APWorks
The Rise of Generative Design
A key element in the creation of the new bionic partition is the rapid evolution in generative design. This capitalises on the power of cloud computing to generate thousands of design alternatives that meet specific goals and constraints.
Generative design can explore new solutions that even experienced designers might not have considered, while improving design quality and performance. Because the designs are nearly impossible to manufacture using traditional methods, additive manufacturing techniques like 3D printing are critical to generative design’s success.
“Generative design, additive manufacturing and the development of new materials are already transforming the shape of manufacturing and innovative companies like Airbus are showing what is possible.” Jeff Kowalski, Chief technology officer at Autodesk
Airbus’ Bionic 3D Printing
The field of bionics, exploring the mechanics and structures of the natural world and investigating their potential applications in modern technology, has become a significant focus for Airbus. It has created a Bionics Network that connects its 3D printing experts to academic institutions at the forefront of research in the bionics field.
“It isn’t as simple as copying nature,” explains Peter Sander of Emerging Technologies and Concepts at Airbus. “Successful bionics depends on establishing a deep understanding of natural materials and then working out how to apply that knowledge in the industrial world.”
Airbus’ capacity to use metal powders of high quality and strength is increasing. “These technologies will ultimately revolutionise the way we design and build aircraft, enabling improvements in fuel efficiency, passenger comfort and a drastic reduction in the environmental footprint of air transport overall,” highlights Sander.
“We are always looking to push the boundaries of new technologies and explore how we can best innovate.” Peter Sander – Emerging Technologies and Concepts at Airbus
Taking 3D Metal Printing to the Next Level
Proof of these new technologies is a method called selective laser melting, through which thin layers of melted metal are put on top of each other. The technique allows the use of common industrial alloys, like steel or titanium in 3D printing, producing durable components with great accuracy and precision.
Partnering with Professor Claus Emmelmann, from Hamburg’s Technical University, and selective laser melting expert Frank Herzog, Peter Sander has now brought this technology to Airbus. To demonstrate its potential, the team printed a bionic titanium bracket for the A350 XWB.
This innovative collaboration project was nominated for the 2015 German Future Awards (Deutscher Zukunftspreis) and Airbus plans to launch series production using this 3D printing approach in 2016.
Airbus’ Bionic Network: Finding Answers in the World Around Us
Airbus Group: We Make it Fly
Airbus Group is a global pioneer in aeronautics, space and defence-related servies, creating cutting-edge technology.
The Airbus Group operates in more than 170 locations worldwide. Most of the Company’s order book and growing industrial footprint now lies beyond its European borders. Such examples can be seen in aircraft final assembly lines in Tianjin, China, and Mobile, Alabama (US). We also produce helicopters in Brazil, maintain research centres in Singapore, India, the US, China and Russia, and we run Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) hubs on five continents.
(Top photo)-Photo courtesy of Airbus Group, Copyright © Airbus Group 2016
Source: Published by Airbus Group, Ref. www.airbusgroup.com/Airbus-stories