In a tech-driven age, it has become clear that the aerospace industry will continue to adopt and embrace modern manufacturing processes. Whether it’s smart manufacturing, digital manufacturing, or industry 4.0 processes, a wide range of technologies now fuel the aerospace as well as defense sector.
The fact of the matter is that advanced digital technologies have managed to shift the focus to additive manufacturing. In fact, digital technologies have also made it easier to pair traditional processes like sheet metal fabrication, injection molding, and CNC machining.
It is no secret that aerospace vehicles go through a lot of stress. This trend has created a need for durable, high-quality, safe, resistant, and stable parts. In the aerospace manufacturing space, the end game is to ensure end-to-end manufacturing throughout the design and development stage.
Let’s look at the aerospace manufacturing sector, additive manufacturing, the role of CNC machining, types of materials, digital manufacturing tools, and the future of aerospace manufacturing parts:
State of Aerospace Parts Manufacturing
guided missiles, and engines all fall under the umbrella of the aerospace manufacturing sector. Of course, the manufacturing of these vehicles involves different parts and machinery. According to the 2021 Global Aerospace & Defense Industry Review, the aerospace sector continues to grow consistently for the past three years. The report highlights that the demand for commercial aerospace industry components is at an all-time high and would require next-gen technologies to drive more innovation. The report concludes that the growth of the aerospace sector would depend on “how” the manufacturers meet the high production demands and use new tech applications.
Machines Parts in Aerospace
In 2022, aerospace machining extends to a wide range of parts and prototypes. But these components and prototypes have to comply with fundamental safety standards and criteria.
While the long list of machinable aerospace components is long, here are some essential machinable aerospace end-use parts.
- Electrical connectors
- Engine housings
- Air and liquid-based filtration solutions
- Oxygen production solutions
- Turbine blades
- Motion controls
- Landing gear parts
- Fuselage parts
- Wing ribs
- Cabin components
- Seats and armrests
A Closer Look at Additive Manufacturing
Additive manufacturing or AM has become one of the hallmark digital manufacturing methods for aerospace OEMs. The good news is that the aerospace sector is in a stable and unique position and wants to leverage the best AM has to offer. After all, additive manufacturing supports components that are difficult to procure and manufacture.
You may not be aware of it but aerospace and aviation are two foundational industries to additive manufacturing. In 2022, most organizations in the aerospace sector prefer to opt for agile ways to source, develop, and build unique products. In terms of parts, additive manufacturing has made it possible to meet the high demand in the aerospace industry.
Aerospace Parts Manufacturing: Essential Used Technologies
While there are many technologies that can produce aerospace components, CNC machining has become the go-to choice, especially in machining large aerospace parts.
Here are some of the cutting-edge manufacturing technologies used for aerospace components and processes:
CNC Swiss Precision
For small and complex parts, the use of the Swiss CNC precision machine is invaluable. Whether you want deep drilling, slotting, hobbing, or threading, you can create a dedicated and centralized setup on CNC swiss precision by rotating each part on seven different axes. It is the best way to handle multiple manufacturing processes at the same time.
5-Axis CNC Machining
With a 5-axis CNC machine, you can render geometrically complex shapes. One of the perks of using a 5-axis CNC machine is that it simplifies that entire process to produce components. Whether it’s composite plastics or solid metals, a 5-axis CNC machine saves time and resources to produce aerospace parts.
CNC Turning Machine
CNC turning or “lathe” machine allows manufacturers to get perfect rotational symmetry to produce aerospace components. Using a 5-axes CNC turning machine that can rotate in the vertical and horizontal direction, you can produce precise and high-quality components.
CNC Machining and Aerospace Parts Manufacturing: Connecting the Dots!
Although CNC aerospace parts machining caters to the needs of several industries, it continues to be integral in the aerospace industry. CNC machines have the power to optimize the manufacturing process and cut out human errors altogether. Think of using CNC machines as a way to digitize the entire process to manufacture aerospace components.
For instance, when it comes to durability and scalability, CNC machining aerospace parts have a significant advantage over 3D printing aerospace parts. When the process becomes computerized, there is no room for accidental errors throughout the manufacturing process.
Importance of Materials for Aerospace Manufacturing Parts
From aluminum to titanium, different material renders different features and ultimately serves a unique purpose. When it comes to manufacturing aerospace parts, you have to take into account several factors to choose the “right” material.
Of course, the cost of material can limit or open up new possibilities to produce aerospace parts. But whether you choose titanium, aluminum, inconel, liquid silicone, stainless steel, or rubber, you have to consider weight, durability, strength, corrosion, and heat resistance.
Here are the most used types of materials in aerospace:
Titanium alloy has a balance between strength and weight, offers premium performance in extreme temperatures, and ensures corrosion resistance. In the aerospace sector, titanium alloy has become a go-to material to render flawless production. From commercial Airbus A380 to military aircraft such as the F-22, the use of titanium is a hallmark standard for aerospace components.
Aluminum alloy is a lightweight and powerful metal used in modern-day aerospace machining. In fact, the use of aluminum pre-dates even titanium. Aluminum material forms a slid oxide coating that makes it highly resistant to corrosion. 7075 is the common aluminum alloy used in aerospace machining. Since aluminum is more formable than titanium, it is more ideal for CNC machining.
We offer a range of nickel and chromium superalloys that are used as Inconel. These graded superalloy materials have a variety of use cases from a jet engine to a high-pressured compressor. You can also find this material in ducting systems, engine exhaust solutions, and turbine blades.
Aerospace machining also uses performance-based plastics like polycarbonate and Ultem. These materials are developed and used differently than aluminum and titanium. One of the perks of using engineered plastics is that they are significantly lightweight than metals. But these types of materials don’t serve as an alternative for metal alloys. But the impact resistance, chemical resistance, and sealing properties of plastic materials are well-aware in the aerospace industry.
From Designing to Testing to Development: Pre-Production & Prototyping
Typically, an additive manufacturing process is used to encompass complex structures and layered components. Once there is compatibility with AM, manufacturers consider all the design requirements and processes. Usually, it involves using advanced software like topological optimization or generative design to produce adaptive, organic, and complex structures.
The trick is to not compromise on the flexibility and strength of the components. Autodesk is arguably the most common example of rendering generative and organic design effectively. Like the design, development stages have to be realized across manufacturing processes and systems. Prototyping is the next course of action after the component is designed and developed. At this stage, testing protocols check the structural integrity and strength of the component.
Aerospace Parts Manufacturing: Quality Control, Inspections, and Certifications
In modern-day manufacturing of aerospace parts, different process controls are combined throughout the production. Similarly, traceability throughout the manufacturing process is integral for each batch of used material and production process to track back its origins. The best practice for manufacturers is to maintain comprehensive records to trace every manufacturer’s parts over the years.
In the aerospace sector, equipment often falls apart and experiences failure. It is the main reason manufacturers follow quality metrics to ensure compliance. As per policy, manufacturers have to get two relevant certifications to produce components for the aerospace industry.
ITAR or International Traffic in Arms Regulations refers to guidelines that outline the overall compliance requirements to manufacture, sell, or trade technology and items within or outside the U.S.
Most companies ensure compliance to AS9102, which is a standard inspection and involves meeting basic verification requirements of components. The inspection involves confirmation of documentation, processes, and used tools.
Aerospace Parts Manufacturing: When Low Volume Meets High Demand Production
After the approval of design and initiation of production, the manufacturing process has to consider the delivery timeframe and volume for each component. The objective of manufacturers is to opt for JIT or just-in-time protocol and ensure on-demand product manufacturing.
Fundamentally, the key is to provide low-volume production for aerospace components. JIT protocol uses on-demand product manufacturing for aerospace organizations to decrease inventory and warehousing costs on aerospace parts.
Use of Dedicated Digital Manufacturing Tools to Manufacture Aerospace Components
Your objective should be to look for companies that know how to take advantage of advanced manufacturing technologies. If your priority is speed, opt for companies that can accelerate development and manufacturing processes to produce aerospace components with a wide range of materials.
Ordinarily, companies use technologies like heat exchanges, turbo pumps, fuel nozzles, manifolds, and conformal cooling systems to speed up the production process. Speaking of digital manufacturing tools, make sure the service provider you choose can offer autonomous digital tools on top of hands-on expert engineers.
What Parts are in High Demand for Outsourcing Production
When it comes to outsourcing production, the parts that are (almost) always in high demand are:
- Heat treatment of 3D printed components
- Post-production machining of 3D metal parts
- Custom and composite tooling
- Manufacturing of jigs and brackets
- Electroless nickel-based plating
- Rapid prototyped components using 3D-printed plastics and metals
- Rapid prototyped components using CNC machines
You can expect to see more demand for sustainable and fuel-efficient manufactured parts in the aerospace industry. In hindsight, the latest digital technologies have made it possible for manufacturers to significantly reduce waste material and production time.
Of course, advanced manufacturing in the aerospace industry has become more complex. But whether it’s drones, spacecraft, airliners, rotary-wing aircraft, unpowered gliders, or space vehicles, the manufacturing parts in aerospace continue to be more diverse.
Our Approach to Aerospace Manufacturing Parts Using Digital Tools and Technologies
As the aerospace industry discovers and utilizes new robust manufacturing technologies, the production quality of components reaches the all-time best. It is the main reason we produce top-of-the-line aero manufacturing and engineering components.
You have to see it to believe it!
The quest to meet the high demands of the aerospace sector never ends and we continue to be at the forefront to focus on precision and quality manufactured components. We use modern and innovative techniques and tools to produce precision parts with tight tolerances and a specific climate-controlled atmosphere.
When it comes to aerospace manufacturing parts, we believe in real-world applications. We produce and provide industrial-scale 3D printing with unique technology options like CNC machining, injection molding, sheet metal parts fabrication, and much more.
We operate as premier CNC machining experts in the aerospace industry and have had the experience to work with some of the prominent players. Reach out to us for a free quote now!
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Our strong network ensures optimal budget and leadtime allowing for streamlined negotiations for long-term agreements for blanket purchase orders, especially those which require larger volume purchases.
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