Airbus has signed a research agreement with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to explore the use of digital manufacturing in aerospace. Working with Neil Gershenfeld, director of MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms (CBA) and his team, the aircraft manufacturer will evaluate how the digital material concepts being developed at MIT can potentially be applied to the design and construction of aerospace vehicles.
Digital material technology is based on the idea that a complex structure can be constructed by assembling a simple set of discrete components, similar to how the body builds all of its proteins from amino acids. When the novel parts developed by MIT are assembled, much like snap-together building blocks – the resulting structure is not only lightweight, but also extremely durable and easy to disassemble and reassemble. The technique, which could lead to a totally new way of assembling airplanes, may offer substantial benefits, including lighter aircraft structures as well as lower construction and assembly costs.
As Airbus seeks to explore new efficient and cost-effective ways to design and manufacture its aircraft in the future, this approach radically challenges the traditional airframe architecture, which consists of manufacturing large structures or parts in single pieces. Airbus is also exploring the use of 3D digital printing for the cost and weight saving potential it offers in the production of individual parts or even larger airframe structures.
“The agreement with MIT opens up an interesting collaboration with a cutting-edge research partner,” said Axel Krein, Senior Vice President of R&T at Airbus. “At Airbus, we invest heavily in projects, programs and partnerships to develop and offer step-change technologies and solutions that bring value, profitability and environmental benefits to our customers. We are pleased to add MIT to our growing global network of research partners and to explore this line of research together.”
“We're delighted to welcome Airbus as CBA's newest member, with a focus on aerospace applications of digital fabrication,” said Neil Gershenfeld.
Airbus is a leading aircraft manufacturer with the most modern and comprehensive family of airliners on the market, ranging in capacity from 100 to more than 500 seats. Airbus champions innovative technologies and offers some of the world’s most fuel efficient and quiet aircraft. Airbus has sold over 13,300 aircraft to more than 360 customers worldwide. Airbus has achieved more than 8,000 deliveries since the first Airbus aircraft entered into service. Headquartered in Toulouse, France, Airbus is an EADS company.