Keeping up with technology requires discipline, and different ways of thinking. In aerospace, there are several areas in which this is quite clear. One is the use of additive manufacturing. Because we are now able to “3D Print” components from metal, we need to rethink the very nature of components we can produce. A second is the use of new and more advanced materials, from next-generation composites to nano tubes in building stronger and lighter aircraft. A third is information technology, as aircraft move from analog to digital actuation and control systems. A fourth is computer-aided design, from computational fluid dynamics to AI-enhanced CAD systems. When I earned my engineering degree a few decades ago, this was the stuff of science fiction. Today it is reality and changing the nature of the industry.
Traditional manufacturing entails cutting metal, and engineers have been constrained by designing parts that could be cut, milled, ground, etched, or otherwise reduce a block of metal into a finished product. Often, these designs were constrained by the capabilities of the tooling employed in manufacturing processes. Today, additive manufacturing has removed some of those constraints, enabling more creative designs.