The aerospace industry is of critical importance to our thermal-processing world. For this reason, we need to pay attention to what’s happening.

Something that has intrigued some of us for many decades is flying cars. As a child, I remember seeing the cover of my father’s Popular Mechanics magazine containing photos and drawings of this type of personal flight vehicle.
It seems as though this is coming closer to reality.

We recently reported that Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, which owns Volvo Cars and has a stake in Daimler AG, will invest in flying-car maker Volocopter GmbH. Geely and Germany-based Volocopter will form a joint venture in an effort to bring flying cars to China.

Hyundai Motor Group has also launched a new air-mobility division to develop technology for the commercialization of flying cars. Hyundai believes that the urban-air sector will grow into a market worth $1.5 trillion within the next 20 years.

Uber is another player in this market, and they have moved forward with their Uber Copter. Flights are currently available from lower Manhattan to JFK for a cost of $200-225. Uber hopes its NYC Copter project will pave the way for Uber Air, a taxi service of electric “vertical take-off and landing” aircraft.

By the time you are reading this, the first all-female spacewalk will have taken place. Several spacewalks were scheduled in October, with this one on Oct. 21. A community college in Washington is encouraging women to enter another aerospace occupation – aviation mechanics – for which the median salary is now $70,620. The National Science Foundation is providing the school with a grant to boost the number of women in aerospace-technician programs. A recent Boeing report points to another serious need for 804,000 pilots worldwide in the next two decades.

Additive manufacturing (AM) in aerospace is definitely an area to watch. Producing aerospace titanium parts additively (versus subtractively) is economically viable because of titanium’s cost. During the Paris Air Show, GE Additive announced a significant investment in Arcam electron-beam melting (EBM) technology. An additional 27 EBM systems will be purchased, and GE Additive’s 62 EBM units will be used to produce titanium-aluminide (TiAl) blades for the low-pressure turbine of the GE9X engine.

Norsk Titanium has successfully printed QuesTek’s custom titanium wire for testing purposes. The microstructure and properties of several heat-treated conditions were evaluated and found to be superior to standard Ti-6Al-4V.

Rolls-Royce has added an AM system produced by SLM Solutions AG to advance AM technology for aerospace components. Additionally, GKN Aerospace has commissioned a second large-scale pilot production facility at the DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). It is reported to be “the largest pilot production cell of its kind in the world.”

Carpenter Technology Corp. and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) are collaborating to produce AM components for production commercial aircraft. AM technology is being used for new platforms and applications.

Have you ever wanted to be an astronaut and visit the International Space Station? It may soon be possible if you have enough money. As a way to reduce NASA’s yearly operating costs, they are opening the ISS for “private astronaut missions of up to 30 days.” The first mission will begin as early as 2020. NASA will initiate two private flights a year with each likely costing $50 million. NASA will receive $35,000 for each night a private astronaut spends on the ISS. Enjoy the trip, and send me a postcard!