Date of Award
Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Mechanical Engineering and University Honors
Three-dimensional printing -- Industrial applications, Airplanes -- Wings -- Design and construction, Finite element method
3D printing has allowed complex designs to be produced which were impossible to create using conventional manufacturing processes. Aircraft wings are optimized as much as possible given manufacturability considerations, but more complex geometry could provide the same strength for less weight, increasing aircraft performance. Although carbon fiber composites are some of the best known materials for conventional optimized aircraft wings, current 3D printing technology cannot produce this material. Instead, it is currently limited to metals and polymers. To determine if the more complex geometry which can be produced by 3D printing can offset the material limitations, a carbon fiber composite wing and a redesigned, 3D printed 7075-T6 aluminum wing were compared using Finite Element Analysis. The unoptimized 3D printed aluminum wing had a superior safety factor against fracture/yielding (1,109% higher) and buckling resistance (127.3% higher), but at the cost of a 23.99% mass increase compared to the optimized carbon fiber composite wing. If the 3D printed aluminum wing had been optimized to provide the same safety factor against fracture/yielding and buckling resistance as the carbon fiber composite wing, it is anticipated that the resulting design would be significantly lighter, thus increasing aircraft performance.
Rogers, Julian M., "Finite Element Analysis of 3D Printed Aircraft Wing" (2018). University Honors Theses. Paper 538.