Forget 'Hello Kitty'
What about this one? (Regularly to be seen over London en route between Heathrow and Los Angeles.)
Plane-maker Airbus is working on an inkjet printer. Currently undergoing testing, the device is intended to paint planes. Today, airlines' logos and the designs they favour are usually painted onto planes. If the designs are complex, they are built up layer by layer in a time-consuming process. Designs too complex to be …
They've already begun 3D printing little parts. It's safe to expect those'll grow in size and number with each coming model. Nonetheless, at that size (both of company and product) they won't charge headlong into a technology just for the newness of it.
On the other hand, Ryanair might start selling you 3D printed food (probably with someone else's paid advertisement on it) soon enough.
When it gets to the stage where "ink jets" are in fact "atom jets" then you might have a process that could produce viable aircraft. Until then 3d printing for most aerospace applications, without significant treatment regimes afterwards, is just plain not going to work.
Those treatment regimes (annealing etc) would lose you most of the convenience of printing anyway. It's been a little while since I did any serious metallurgy but I hate to imagine the physical properties of aluminium that has been ink jet deposited. Consider the fact that planes use rivets rather than welds to hold them together because welding weakens the aluminium alloy too much and you get a sense of the problem.
The degree to which the alloys in aircraft depend on strict atomic-crystalline arrangements on a large scale for their structural integrity is very impressive especially when you realise you bet your life on the fact that it is so and will remain so for the duration of your flight let alone the lifetime of the component.
Your metallurgy must be longer ago than you realize. Airbus has introduced laser welding on aluminium sheets long ago for the A380. With the right alloy and right welding parameters, you get a better strength-to-weight ratio than with rivets, which are a pain from a production engineering point of view. The latest fab is of course friction stir welding, which is starting to show up in aerospace products.
Nonetheless, no aircraft I am aware of is made 100% of the same material, there are always a number of different production methods used. And I for one would hate to operate an aircraft that, like the ship from Momo, was all in one piece. Imagine the cost of replacing a danged bit!
It's a 1973 children's novel by Michael Ende about a girl of the same name, who ends up defeating time thieves (the so-called grey men). In one of the early scenes, Momo and her friends play out an adventure in an imaginary ship in an imaginary thunderstorm. And the ship is cast in a single piece. OK, it's outdated, but still quite well known where I live.
Your metallurgy must be longer ago than you realize
Fair cop guv.
Airbus has introduced laser welding on aluminium sheets long ago for the A380. With the right alloy and right welding parameters, you get a better strength-to-weight ratio than with rivets, which are a pain from a production engineering point of view.
Rivetting is a pita, not just for production, it can be a source of corrosion leading to fractures during the working life of the aircraft too.
And I take your point about laser welding on Airbus products, although that's quite a lot of qualifications for what turns out to be a relatively small part of the A380's fuselage. That being said I too expect the proportion will only increase.
However, imagine having to laser weld every dot of the structure in 3d as you print it. And when it comes to the jet engine turbine blades... after you sir!
SpaceX have recently been testing a small rocket engine whose thrust (combustion) chamber has been 3d printed. The comments were that they had been able to make a hugely efficient engine because the component's shape was able to adopt a more sophisticated and complex shape that would be difficult to fabricate using typical "metal bashing" techniques. On test the engine has performed very well indeed.
"Airbus says the still-experimental printer “... functions much like a traditional model"
So it will be used irregularly and the ink will dry up and clog the nozzles resulting in streaks down the side of your plane. It will also inexplicably chew up the odd plane in its plane feeder tray. They won't provide a Linux driver for anything except Ubuntu 10.04 and the Windows driver will be 745MB for some reason.
I hate inkjets. I'll hold out for the laser version. True, the toner carts will cost a couple $M each, but you will be able to print more than one plane before it starts streaking or telling you it's running low on cyan. Or refusing to print any B/W text because of same. Of course lights might dim in neighbouring cities when the fuser starts to warm up...
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