Autodesk and Airbus to manufacture bio-inspired lightweight panels

Autodesk has collaborated with Airbus on the world’s largest 3D printed aeroplane cabin component. Created with custom algorithms based on the growth of smile mould and mammalian bone growth, the ‘bionic partition’ is an optimised version of the dividing wall between the seating area and galley on a plane that holds the jumpseat for attendants.

Using the cloud, generative design can compute large sets of design alternatives that meet specific goals and constraints and improve design quality and performance.

“Generative design, additive manufacturing and the development of new materials are already transforming the shape of manufacturing and companies like Airbus are showing what is possible,” said Jeff Kowalski, chief technology officer of Autodesk. “This is not just an interesting hypothetical experiment – this is a fully functioning component we can expect to see being deployed in aircraft in the very near future.”

The resulting partition design is almost impossible to manufacture using traditional methods so Airbus used a combination of additive manufacturing and advanced materials to create a structure made up of both macro and micro geometries. The team printed 122 parts in Scalmalloy, an aluminium-magnesium-scandium alloy, and 40 parts in titanium. The finished partition weights 45% less than current Airbus A320 partition designs. Airbus estimates that the new design approach can save up to 465,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions per year, the equivalent of taking around 96,000 passenger cars.

The companies say the first phase of testing the partition has been successfully completed with further testing to be conducted next year. Autodesk believes we could see the component on the market by 2018 with similar components to follow in the early 2020s.