TEDGlobal 2013

Bastian Schaefer: A 3D-printed jumbo jet?

Filmed:

Designer Bastian Schaefer shows off a speculative design for the future of jet planes, with a skeleton inspired by strong, flexible, natural forms and by the needs of the world's, ahem, growing population. Imagine an airplane that's full of light and space -- and built up from generative parts in a 3D printer.

- Aircraft engineer
Bastian Schaefer and a team of designers at Airbus have been imagining the high-concept future of the jet airlplane -- in a future with less fuel and more passengers. Full bio

What do we know about the future?
00:12
Difficult question, simple answer: nothing.
00:14
We cannot predict the future.
00:17
We only can create a vision of the future, how it might be,
00:19
a vision which reveals disruptive ideas, which is inspiring,
00:24
and this is the most important reason
00:27
which breaks the chains of common thinking.
00:30
There are a lot of people
00:33
who created their own vision about the future,
00:34
for instance, this vision here from the early 20th century.
00:36
It says here that this is the ocean plane of the future.
00:39
It takes only one and a half days to cross the Atlantic Ocean.
00:43
Today, we know that this future vision didn't come true.
00:47
So this is our largest airplane which we have,
00:50
the Airbus A380, and it's quite huge,
00:53
so a lot of people fit in there
00:56
and it's technically completely different
00:58
than the vision I've shown to you.
01:00
I'm working in a team with Airbus,
01:02
and we have created our vision
01:04
about a more sustainable future of aviation.
01:06
So sustainability is quite important for us,
01:09
which should incorporate social
01:11
but as well as environmental and economic values.
01:13
So we have created a very disruptive structure
01:16
which mimics the design of bone, or a skeleton,
01:19
which occurs in nature.
01:23
So that's why it looks maybe a little bit weird,
01:25
especially to the people who deal with structures in general.
01:27
But at least it's just a kind of artwork
01:31
to explore our ideas about a different future.
01:33
What are the main customers of the future?
01:38
So, we have the old, we have the young,
01:40
we have the uprising power of women,
01:42
and there's one mega-trend which affects all of us.
01:45
These are the future anthropometrics.
01:49
So our children are getting larger, but at the same time
01:51
we are growing into different directions.
01:55
So what we need is space inside the aircraft,
01:57
inside a very dense area.
02:03
These people have different needs.
02:05
So we see a clear need of active health promotion,
02:07
especially in the case of the old people.
02:11
We want to be treated as individuals.
02:13
We like to be productive throughout the entire travel chain,
02:15
and what we are doing in the future is
02:21
we want to use the latest man-machine interface,
02:23
and we want to integrate this and show this in one product.
02:26
So we combined these needs with technology's themes.
02:30
So for instance, we are asking ourselves,
02:34
how can we create more light?
02:36
How can we bring more natural light into the airplane?
02:39
So this airplane has no windows anymore, for example.
02:41
What about the data and communication software
02:45
which we need in the future?
02:47
My belief is that the airplane of the future
02:49
will get its own consciousness.
02:52
It will be more like a living organism
02:54
than just a collection of very complex technology.
02:56
This will be very different in the future.
03:01
It will communicate directly
03:03
with the passenger in its environment.
03:05
And then we are talking also about materials,
03:07
synthetic biology, for example.
03:10
And my belief is that we will get more and more
03:12
new materials which we can put into structure later on,
03:15
because structure is one of the key issues in aircraft design.
03:19
So let's compare the old world with the new world.
03:23
I just want to show you here what we are doing today.
03:26
So this is a bracket of an A380 crew rest compartment.
03:28
It takes a lot of weight,
03:33
and it follows the classical design rules.
03:34
This here is an equal bracket for the same purpose.
03:38
It follows the design of bone.
03:41
The design process is completely different.
03:43
At the one hand, we have 1.2 kilos,
03:46
and at the other hand 0.6 kilos.
03:49
So this technology, 3D printing, and new design rules
03:50
really help us to reduce the weight,
03:54
which is the biggest issue in aircraft design,
03:55
because it's directly linked to greenhouse gas emissions.
03:58
Push this idea a little bit forward.
04:01
So how does nature build its components and structures?
04:02
So nature is very clever. It puts all the information
04:07
into these small building blocks, which we call DNA.
04:10
And nature builds large skeletons out of it.
04:14
So we see a bottom-up approach here,
04:16
because all the information, as I said, are inside the DNA.
04:19
And this is combined with a top-down approach,
04:22
because what we are doing in our daily life
04:24
is we train our muscles, we train our skeleton,
04:26
and it's getting stronger.
04:29
And the same approach can be applied to technology as well.
04:31
So our building block is carbon nanotubes, for example,
04:34
to create a large, rivet-less skeleton at the end of the day.
04:38
How this looks in particular, you can show it here.
04:42
So imagine you have carbon nanotubes growing
04:45
inside a 3D printer,
04:47
and they are embedded inside a matrix of plastic,
04:48
and follow the forces which occur in your component.
04:52
And you've got trillions of them.
04:55
So you really align them to wood,
04:56
and you take this wood and make morphological optimization,
04:59
so you make structures, sub-structures,
05:02
which allows you to transmit electrical energy or data.
05:04
And now we take this material, combine this
05:08
with a top-down approach,
05:10
and build bigger and bigger components.
05:11
So how might the airplane of the future look?
05:15
So we have very different seats which adapt
05:18
to the shape of the future passenger,
05:20
with the different anthropometrics.
05:22
We have social areas inside the aircraft
05:23
which might turn into a place
05:26
where you can play virtual golf.
05:29
And finally, this bionic structure,
05:31
which is covered by a transparent
05:33
biopolymer membrane, will really change radically
05:36
how we look at aircrafts in the future.
05:40
So as Jason Silva said,
05:42
if we can imagine it, why not make it so?
05:44
See you in the future. Thank you.
05:46
(Applause)
05:48

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About the Speaker:

Bastian Schaefer - Aircraft engineer
Bastian Schaefer and a team of designers at Airbus have been imagining the high-concept future of the jet airlplane -- in a future with less fuel and more passengers.

Why you should listen

Bastian Schaefer is the Cabin and Cargo Innovation Manager at Airbus Operations -- and leads a group of far-thinking engineers who are building out a concept plane. Previously at Airbus, he worked on the development of A380 stairs and components for in-flight entertainment. Between 2006 and 2011 Bastian worked at Bertrand Ingenieurbüro GmbH working on projects with C&D Zodiac Development A350XWB Lavatories, AT Kearney and EADS Technology Watch Consulting. He considers himself a mechanical engineer and has a special interest in cars.

More profile about the speaker
Bastian Schaefer | Speaker | TED.com