In our previous article, we mentioned how composite materials in aerospace manufacturing brought innovation to the industry. We also discussed how it paved the way for several advanced manufacturing technologies. These production technologies are constantly evolving, presenting more and more unique challenges and opportunities in the process.
This article will discuss how the need for lightweight, durable, and reliable parts and materials has introduced four key manufacturing technologies and how each one fares against the other.
The process of additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing, involves using a raw form of composite and depositing layer-on-layer. Instead of a plastic polymer, advanced composites are used to create the component(s), which is accurate up to 0.5mm.
Even NASA uses this manufacturing technology when unique and strengthened components are needed. The process may take some time, depending on the component size. However, it allows for more innovation as it is cost-effective and versatile. To make changes, engineers only need to add a few nodes into the AutoCAD file and start printing. The material used can be recycled (after re-processing it).
Ensuring composite material and finish quality is essential for aerospace manufacturing. Advanced composites and polymers may often be too hard for additive manufacturing, which is where CNC machining comes into play. It can ensure accuracy down to <0.01 mm while ensuring tight fits and perfect finishes.
These materials are essential for aerospace manufacturing, as they are tough and yet, very lightweight. It is primarily applicable when working with hard, temperature-resistant material.
Laser beams can be used not only to join advanced composites but also to etch them if needed. The high-intensity beam heats the component much more precisely and deeply than a blowtorch, allowing for high precision welding and efficiency.
The deep weld also improves the weld’s effectiveness, reducing the risk of corrosion and chances of the welds breaking under stress. Laser welding is also used to seal the aircraft hull.
A very commonly used advanced aerospace manufacturing technology, robots are used with various other manufacturing technologies. The idea is to ensure consistency and quality across the board. Robots are most valuable when performing non-destructive ultrasonic testing or metrology inspections. Robots can be accurate down to 1 micron, i.e., 0.001 mm.
If you would like to learn more about the processes or which method suits your project, give Pacific Aerospace Corp (PAC) a call. You can also get a free, quick quote on your project today!