The Future of Design within Engineering: By Michael Hayes, Design Engineer in Boeing
The aircraft industry has been focused on the techniques of making planes more efficient since the first machines took off in the air. Making aircraft elements lighter and smoother can reduce the fuel consumption and therefore significantly cut the CO2 emissions.
Additive manufacturing has recently become one of the most promising methods to achieve this goal. Using 3D printing would allow for material development and forming complex mechanisms and components directly from the computer, which reduces weight and costs by unitization and structural efficiency. Also, it significantly reduces the time between design and the actual manufacturing, which can usually take more than a year. The ability to make this process more dynamic gives designers the opportunity to test the prototypes and refine their designs much more rapidly than before.
Boeing runs several research programs concentrated on 3D printing technologies. The main research is directed towards producing elements at a larger scale and combining multiple materials in one print, as well as reducing cost of machinery and materials, by avoiding waste through printing.
Boeing promotes innovation and encourages students by investing in Universities in order to train a next generation of Engineers specializing in the field of digital manufacturing. In the UK Boeing is involved in supporting research programs in additive manufacturing at the University of Nottingham and the University of Sheffield.