TED: Bastian Schaefer: A 3D-printed jumbo jet? – Bastian Schaefer (2013)


December 25, 2013 in Video

What do we know about the future? Difficult question, simple answer: nothing. We cannot predict the future. We only can create a vision of the future, how it might be, a vision which reveals disruptive ideas, which is inspiring, and this is the most important reason which breaks the chains of common thinking.

There are a lot of people who created their own vision about the future, for instance, this vision here from the early 20th century. It says here that this is the ocean plane of the future. It takes only one and a half days to cross the Atlantic Ocean. Today, we know that this future vision didn’t come true. So this is our largest airplane which we have, the Airbus A380, and it’s quite huge, so a lot of people fit in there and it’s technically completely different than the vision I’ve shown to you.

I’m working in a team with Airbus, and we have created our vision about a more sustainable future of aviation. So sustainability is quite important for us, which should incorporate social but as well as environmental and economic values. So we have created a very disruptive structure which mimics the design of bone, or a skeleton, which occurs in nature. So that’s why it looks maybe a little bit weird, especially to the people who deal with structures in general. But at least it’s just a kind of artwork to explore our ideas about a different future.

What are the main customers of the future? So, we have the old, we have the young, we have the uprising power of women, and there’s one mega-trend which affects all of us. These are the future anthropometrics. So our children are getting larger, but at the same time we are growing into different directions. So what we need is space inside the aircraft, inside a very dense area. These people have different needs. So we see a clear need of active health promotion, especially in the case of the old people. We want to be treated as individuals. We like to be productive throughout the entire travel chain, and what we are doing in the future is we want to use the latest man-machine interface, and we want to integrate this and show this in one product.

So we combined these needs with technology’s themes. So for instance, we are asking ourselves, how can we create more light? How can we bring more natural light into the airplane? So this airplane has no windows anymore, for example. What about the data and communication software which we need in the future? My belief is that the airplane of the future will get its own consciousness. It will be more like a living organism than just a collection of very complex technology. This will be very different in the future. It will communicate directly with the passenger in its environment. And then we are talking also about materials, synthetic biology, for example. And my belief is that we will get more and more new materials which we can put into structure later on, because structure is one of the key issues in aircraft design.

So let’s compare the old world with the new world. I just want to show you here what we are doing today. So this is a bracket of an A380 crew rest compartment. It takes a lot of weight, and it follows the classical design rules. This here is an equal bracket for the same purpose. It follows the design of bone. The design process is completely different. At the one hand, we have 1.2 kilos, and at the other hand 0.6 kilos. So this technology, 3D printing, and new design rules really help us to reduce the weight, which is the biggest issue in aircraft design, because it’s directly linked to greenhouse gas emissions.

Push this idea a little bit forward. So how does nature build its components and structures? So nature is very clever. It puts all the information into these small building blocks, which we call DNA. And nature builds large skeletons out of it. So we see a bottom-up approach here, because all the information, as I said, are inside the DNA. And this is combined with a top-down approach, because what we are doing in our daily life is we train our muscles, we train our skeleton, and it’s getting stronger. And the same approach can be applied to technology as well. So our building block is carbon nanotubes, for example, to create a large, rivet-less skeleton at the end of the day. How this looks in particular, you can show it here. So imagine you have carbon nanotubes growing inside a 3D printer, and they are embedded inside a matrix of plastic, and follow the forces which occur in your component. And you’ve got trillions of them. So you really align them to wood, and you take this wood and make morphological optimization, so you make structures, sub-structures, which allows you to transmit electrical energy or data. And now we take this material, combine this with a top-down approach, and build bigger and bigger components.

So how might the airplane of the future look? So we have very different seats which adapt to the shape of the future passenger, with the different anthropometrics. We have social areas inside the aircraft which might turn into a place where you can play virtual golf. And finally, this bionic structure, which is covered by a transparent biopolymer membrane, will really change radically how we look at aircrafts in the future.

So as Jason Silva said, if we can imagine it, why not make it so? See you in the future. Thank you.


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About the author 

Daniel Latto

Daniel Latto is the owner and Director of The Daniel Latto Group, a Full Service Digital Marketing Agency.

Daniel advises businesses on marketing on Social Media using both Paid and Organic content. His top rated iTunes Podcast; 'The Wealth Creation Show' has hundreds of thousands of listeners around the world.

Daniel originally became Financially Free through property, with a Multi Million Pound Property porftolfio in Leeds.

He now lives in Spain on the shores of the Mediterranean.

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