EADS foresees aircraft applications for new weight-saving technology

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Additive layer manufacturing (ALM) technology developed by Airbus parent EADS could be used to greatly reduce aircraft weight and cut manufacturing costs by reducing material waste, according to the company's head of technology Jean Botti.

As much as 90% of the material needed to make a forged component is machine away to reach a final shape compared with as little as 5% when ALM is deployed, says Botti. He envisions that ALM could be used in the manufacture of structural parts for aircraft.

Developed from rapid prototyping technology, ALM is a process that replaces forged or cast parts with parts built from metallic powder that is sintered into layers by laser. Parts thus produced are lighter because their final shape is dictated by structural requirements rather than the limits of machining techniques.

Yesterday, the lightweight manufacturing technology passed critical safety tests conducted by motorsport governing body the Federation Internationale d'Automobile, ahead of expected deployment by the Force India Formula 1 team in 2010.

Botti says the EADS-Airbus connection with F1 via Force India is fruitful because it allows for much more rapid deployment of new technology than is possible in aerospace, where regulations are far more restrictive.