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When you board a flight, you probably don’t notice the partition that separates the crew’s work station from the rest of the cabin. On an aircraft, people tend to pay attention to their seat, their neighbors, and whether there’s space for their carry-on bags. That partition is unglamorous infrastructure that fades into the background.
Unless, of course, you’re an aircraft manufacturer, in which case that partition is a major engineering headache. Like everything on an airplane, that wall must be as light as possible, and consume the smallest amount of space. And like everything on an airplane, it must be strong: That partition bears the weight of flight attendants who, during takeoff and landing, sit on fold-out chairs affixed to it. Such a requirement tends to make partitions heavy and bulky.
European aircraft manufacturer Airbus, like everyone else in the industry, wants to fly lighter, more efficient planes. In its mission to do, Airbus has joined Autodesk to rethink the design of those lowly partitions. Its new partition debuted today at the Autodesk University conference in Las Vegas and, thanks to 3-D printing and some wild new algorithms based on slime mold and bone growth, it weighs in at just 66 pounds. Airbus’s current partitions weigh 143 pounds apiece. “Our goal was to reduce the weight by 30 percent, and we altogether achieved weight reduction by 55 percent,” says Bastian Schaefer, innovation manager at Airbus. “And we’re right at the beginning.” […]