Alcoa AFSR says thanks, underscores importance of additive Challenge

I want to take a minute to express my sincere thanks to everyone for submitting proposals to our challenge. It will be difficult to make a final selection but I wanted to comment in general about the intended use of the part and offer some a few points to consider.

Alcoa has been in the business of designing and fabricating aerospace components since the Wright Brothers first asked us to fabricate a lightweight aluminum block for their engine, so you can say that we fabricated our first aerospace part before the industry existed. Today Alcoa content represents approximately 30% of the structure of any aircraft. While we are best known for our aluminum products, today we manufacture a wide range of parts and offer a wide range of raw materials.

Each year material suppliers around the world produce 1.5 billion pounds of raw materials and parts for the aerospace industry. Likewise each year the worldwide aerospace industry produces approximately 200 million pounds of aircraft with commercial aircraft representing 50% of that. Thus at the highest level the buy-to-fly ratio for the aerospace industry is greater than 7 to 1. Stated another way 6/7 of all aerospace materials end up being scraped or recycled. This a significant cost to our society.

Some say that additive manufacturing technologies signals the beginning of a third industrial revolution. In practice, metal additive manufacturing technologies are in their early stages. But very few people will deny the disruptive nature of the technology and most believe that these technologies represent a step-change in the economics of aerospace production. We often joke that accountants are the ultimate aircraft designers and, while weight is very important, ultimately the cost to transport that weight over the life of an aircraft is the true measure design effectiveness.

Which brings me back to the challenge and why we are specifically interested in additive manufacturing processes.

You are designing a hinge for an aircraft landing gear door. For aircraft, the landing gear supports the aircraft when it is not flying, allowing it to take off, land, and taxi without damage. Faster aircraft usually have retractable landing gear, which folds away during flight to reduce aerodynamic drag. As an aircraft comes in for landing, the landing door is opened to deploy the landing gear.

Additive technologies are less constrained than traditional processes and design complexity is essentially free. I would encourage you to seek inspiration from nature by emulating nature's time-tested patterns and strategies. What analogs in natural structures such as trees can you study for inspiration given that complexity is essentially free with additive technologies?

Luke Haylock


There's still time to participate in Alcoa ASFR Airplane Bearing Bracket Challenge. Click here for more details.