Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Axio Products for 2008

3dyn customer Axio has announced the latests designs in its line of high quality storage and carrying products. Axio manufactures backpacks, briefcases, as well as motorcycle tank and tail bags. The entire new line can be viewed at axio-usa.com

3dyn has worked with Axio, a division of Harodesign, for the past 3 years. We have provided concept modeling, production CAD modeling, display models, and production tooling. Each year, the details are refined, and added features are included, making a fantastic product.

Monday, April 7, 2008

2008 Aircraft Interiors Show

April 1st through 3rd brought the annual Aircraft Interiors Show in Hamburg, Germany. While I guess this might not sound too exciting, its been quite a good business for 3dyn. We have been working with a large supplier to the industry, Cutting Dynamics Inc. of Avon, Ohio, for about 3 years now.

As fuel prices continue to rise, airlines pass the savings on to us. A way to combat this, is by decreasing the weight they haul up into the sky. While ideally you would get the passengers to each lose 20 pounds, it is apparently more feasible to reduce the weight of the aircraft itself.

The first step is to reduce the weight of flying structure itself. This would be the fuselage, wings, empennage (horizontal and vertical tails), landing gear, etc. This is the responsibility of aircraft manufacturers such as Boeing and Airbus, on the larger end of the scale.

While planes take up to 10 years to develop and can be in service up to 30 years, its not always so easy to predict what lightweight materials and processes may be available in future years. They try to be on the cutting edge, but federal regulations, durability concerns, and of course, cost, always play a role.

One of the areas that is a bit easier to keep up with evolving technology is in the interior. Aircraft interiors are normally purchased, or leased, by airlines from interior suppliers. You typically buy your $200M aircraft with no seats, not trim panels, no rest rooms, no gallies and no carpet. All of these are specified and purchased separately by the airline.

Like shoes, there are many varieties of aircraft interiors. There are cheap uncomfortable ones, medium priced ones that last a long time, and ridiculously expensive ones that you can fall asleep in. The aircraft interiors show displays them all; from complete assemblies to fabrics and leathers, to entertainment systems, to foams and nuts and bolts.

Cutting Dynamics had is first display booth for 2008. As a supplier to the aircraft seating industry for 20 years, Cutting Dynamics has surpassed 100,000 seatbacks per year, and countless other components for everything from the cheap seats to the penthouse loungers. At the 2008 show, I helped set up the booth and played salesman for 2 days during the show. Now I guess I play salesman every day to some degree, but I had to wear a suit for 3 days, so that is really a life changer.

We met with lots of people, I think we tracked at least 120 separate companies that seemed to have some sort of genuine interest, some on the purchase end, but also some that had some goods or services we thought were could be interesting to us. As an expert in composite design and construction, I was available to discuss Cutting Dynamics' strategy for developing the next generation of composite seating products.

What we displayed at the 2008 show were some of our recently developed designs which utilize thermoplastic molding of carbon fiber. Typically what has been used for composites is known as thermosetting resins. An example is epoxy. Epoxy resins are activated by mixing two compounds, typically known as the resin and hardener in its simplest nomenclature. Once the two components are mixed, they react give off some heat, and eventually harden. This material is permanently hard, or set. In the case of thermoplastic resins, it is hard at room temperature, and can come in many forms, pellets, sheets, powder, etc. When heated to high temperatures, such as 600 F for the materials we are using, it becomes liquid, then re-hardens when cooled. This can be repeated over and over, but there will be some degradation each time.

The advantages of thermoplastic processing is becoming more and more interesting to both aircraft structure and interior manufactures. Processing times are much quicker than with thermosets. While there are some fast curing thermosets, typical processing of thermoplastic composites can be under 5 minutes. A standard thermoset prepreg could take up to 2 hours to cure in an oven, thus requiring more time, or more tools to meet high volume manufacturing requirements. Additionlly, pending requirements have made the reaction of materials to fire much more strict. Thermoplastic resins will meet the FAA's requirements for Flame, Smoke, Toxicity (FST) and newly added Heat Release where current thermosets will not. Add to all of this reduced cost to manufacture, greater durability and recylability, and thermoplastic composites are a clear winner.

I am looking forward to working with some of the people we met over the 3 days we were at the show in Germany, and also to return next year.