August 26, 2016
Depended on by millions, the world’s commuter aircraft are starting to get old. Some 30,000 planes will need to be replaced in the next 15-20 years, and manufacturers are investigating how to build replacements with greater sustainability. As with nearly any new design project, additive manufacturing (AM) will be crucial to the process.
Led by Airbus, with expertise from Renishaw, the United Kingdom is launching a new project to develop improved airplane wings. The £17.7 million (over $23 million) Wing Design Methodology Validation (WINDY) project is being funded jointly by public and private interests, including contributions from the UK’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. The project is also being supported by the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI), and was announced at the Farnborough International Airshow.
“Aircraft wing design is a hugely complicated process and this project will look at ways we can increase the robustness of the design and test process while also reducing the time this takes,” said Airbus COO, Tom Williams. “Developing state-of-the-art technology will be at the heart of achieving these improvements and this investment is vital for that.”
WINDY will examine how to improve wing aerodynamics, using AM to build both conceptual and functional prototypes. The project will also research the possibility of using 3D printed parts for wing construction, and investigate the potential of leveraging AM for innovative loads control on aircraft for better efficiency in flight.
“One of the key aims of the ATI’s UK national aerospace strategy is to sustain and grow the UK’s global leadership in aircraft wings,” said Simon Weeks, CTO Aerospace Technology Institute. “The WINDY project is a key element of this aim, securing essential wing design and integration capabilities in the UK and opening the way to innovative 3D-printed wing components. These will lead to lighter and more efficient wings, which will be needed for future generations of greener airliners.”
Below you’ll find a short video featuring Thor, Airbus’ latest, least expensive drone, which was constructed using AM.