Thermoplastics for airliners?
Posted by evolvingwheel on May 15, 2007
While reading an article in MSNBC about Boeing 787 being built predominantly from carbon fiber composites, few questions came to my mind. The article discusses the advantage of thermoplastics and carbon fiber composites that are durable, lightweight, and extremely strong. The airliners of future days will be using more of these materials for the load bearing parts and structural components. The article discusses how these composites will enhance the design of the jets by allowing longer hauls, lower maintenance, and considerably lower replacement costs. In other words, the discussion foresees a nearly total replacement of aluminum.
I dug into the subject a little more and found out that carbon fiber based thermoplastics are the new cutting edge composites. Longhaul flights require long-distance airplanes over different atmospheric regions – ranging from very cold, dry air to moist air over vast spans of oceans or tropical lands. These composites will not only be rust less, which in turn will save replacement costs, but will also create a lighter plane and hence less gasoline cost. Currently even the auto industry is looking at the prospect of using carbon fibers for its structural development.
One interesting aspect of adoption of carbon fiber in large scale is the ramification in the aluminum industry. With innovation comes replacement. Replacement of old technology. Efficiency and cost are the primary drivers. Thus, over a span of 10 years, if the industry undergoes a paradigm shift from Aluminum to fibers, Aluminum futures will definitely get hit. The industry will have to adjust accordingly.
An interesting study will be to analyze the impact of the paradigm shift on the metals industry. If the big buyers like automobile industry change their material requirements, then the Aluminum industry will need to adapt to the changing demands, find alternate areas of engagement, and develop more sophisticated alloys.
Read the [article].