Concept design (2016)
|Role:||Design lead and project management|
The Bionic Partition is a design concept for a new component for the Airbus A320 aircraft developed in collaboration with Airbus, Autodesk, and AP Works. The goal of the project was to redesign the interior partition component of the aircraft such that it performs equally well to the existing partition, but weighs 50% less. Weight reduction is a critical focus of the aircraft industry today, and will be the key to maintaining the environmental and economic sustainability of air travel into the future.
To achieve this difficult goal, the Bionic Partition leverages cutting-edge metal alloys developed at Airbus, new fabrication techniques in metal 3d printing, and new design software which can iterate through many design options, analyze each one for its performance, and ‘evolve’ better performing designs over time. By combining human intuition with artificial intelligence, this novel generative design workflow can create much better and higher performing designs that would be possible through a traditional design process. After three years of development, the project resulted in a complete, testable prototype of the world’s largest metal 3D printed airplane component. This prototype is currently undergoing 16G crash testing as part of the process for certification and integration into the current fleet of A320 planes.
The Bionic Partition was unveiled at the Autodesk University annual conference in Las Vegas in 2015. It has been covered in Wired Magazine and The Wall Street Journal, was a finalist in Fast Company’s 2016 Innovation by Design Awards and was the winner of a 2017 Architizer A+ Award for innovation in 3d printing.
Rendering of final partition design with cover panel and cabin attendant seat (CAS)
While the partition wall may seem like a relatively simple component, it actually presents two complex structural challenges. First, the partition must support a fold-down cabin attendant seat (CAS). Unlike the partition, the CAS is not attached to the airplane’s fuselage or the floor, thus the full weight of two flight attendants and the seat itself must be transferred through the partition into the aircraft’s structure. Second, due to new safety regulations, the partition must include a panel called the ‘stretcher flap’ which can be removed to allow a stretcher carrying a sick or injured passenger to be carried around the corner from the seating area to the galley and exit. This results in a big hole in the partition which makes it difficult to route forces from the CAS directly into the aircraft’s fuselage.
Diagram of geometry system with 50 inputs, 2 constraints derived from FEA simulation, and two objectives derived from the geometry of the model
Diagram of computational geometry system based on growth of slime mould
All designs explored during the optimization process plotted according to the two objectives. Colour represents the generation in which the design was evaluated, with blue for earlier and red for later designs. Designs with a black outline are part of the Pareto-dominant set of optimal solutions.
Rationalization of geometry and fabrication of final prototype
Final design component breakdown (left) and manufactured prototype (right)
Airbus engineers test-fitting bionic partition into A320 fuselage.