Ultimate Guide to Aerospace Parts Manufacturing

Ultimate Guide to Aerospace Parts Manufacturing

Have you ever asked yourself – how big is the aerospace parts manufacturing market? According to a Grand View Research report, in 2019, its market size was USD 907.2 billion. The same report indicates that they expect an expansion at a CAGR of 4.1% from 2020 to 2027.

The implications of such an expansion are enormous for aerospace parts manufacturing companies. Staying up-to-date with the latest technologies and trends in aerospace parts manufacturing is crucial to keep up with the increasingly evolving demand.

Aerospace parts manufacturing is a sensitive industry regarding tolerances and lack of space for error. Parts for aircraft need to be lightweight, precisely dimensioned, durable, and temperature-resistant. With these strict requirements, it’s not surprising that this industry is heavily regulated.

So, let’s see what the rules and regulations are and what makes a good and successful aerospace parts manufacturing process.

Explaining the Aerospace Parts Manufacturing Industry

Explaining the Aerospace Parts Manufacturing Industry

When we talk about the aerospace parts manufacturing industry, think about aircraft, spacecraft, guided missiles, propulsion units, engines, etc. All of these vehicles are composed of different machinery and components.

As the name suggests, the aerospace parts manufacturing industry deals with producing parts and components for air and space vehicles.

When we discuss spacecraft and aircraft, safety is the number one thing that pops into everyone’s mind. Due to the high impact, temperature fluctuation, and stress that aerospace vehicles stand throughout their journeys, their components need to be durable and resistant yet lightweight.

Due to these conditions, aerospace parts manufacturing has incredibly tight tolerances of preciseness.

What Technologies Do We Use in Aerospace Parts Manufacturing?

We’ve already spoken about the importance of keeping up with the latest technologies and increasing demand trends in the aerospace industry. Although several technologies can help us create aerospace parts, CNC machining is number one.

With CNC machining, we can produce aerospace components that have complex geometrical shapes. What’s more, we can do that out of solid materials such as metals or composite plastics.

Now, let’s see the best CNC machining and manufacturing technologies that a cutting-edge, contemporary aerospace parts manufacturer should possess:

3/4/5-Axis CNC Machining

A good manufacturer of aerospace parts will possess all of these technologies. However, to satisfy today’s demand for aerospace components with tight tolerance, we recommend using a 5-Axis CNC machine.

A 5-Axis CNC machine can create complex geometrical forms and shapes that would otherwise require multiple processes. With this, you can save time and resources and make the entire manufacturing process more efficient.

CNC Swiss Precision

CNC Swiss Precision

For the tiniest but yet complex parts, we recommend using a CNC Swiss precision machine. By rotating a part on 7+ axes, this machine can do multiple processes simultaneously: deep drilling, threading, slotting, and hobbing – all of this with one setup.

Having a CNC Swiss machine can save you tons of time and allow you to offer a quicker turnaround time for your clients.

CNC Turning (Lathe) Machine

CNC Turning

To achieve rotational symmetry, aerospace parts manufacturers use CNC turning. With a 5-Axes CNC Lathe machine rotating parts horizontally and vertically, we can execute with quality and preciseness.

CNC Milling Machine

CNC Milling Machine

To take the most advantage of a modern CNC milling machine, you should have a 3D CAD file that will help you program the machine’s code correctly.

We can create all types of designs with quality CNC milling – from regular lines to intricate and tightly woven patterns and shapes.

The Importance of CNC Machining in Aerospace Parts Manufacturing

The Importance of CNC Machining in Aerospace Parts Manufacturing

CNC machining serves several different industries. However, its most crucial implication remains to the aerospace industry.

With a fully optimized CNC machining process, we eliminate the possibility of human error. We’re talking about an entirely digitized process since the machine is programmed based on a 3D CAD file. There’s zero space for errors since we computerize this whole process.

3D printing is another solution for aerospace parts manufacturing. With 3D printing, we can manufacture precise models. However, in terms of durability, CNC machining takes the lead in the production of aerospace parts.

What Is the Future of Aerospace Parts Manufacturing?

What Is the Future of Aerospace Parts Manufacturing

The rising price of fuel, the aim to decrease greenhouse gas emissions, and the industry’s impact on climate change, largely influence the future of aerospace parts manufacturing.

With that in mind, we’ve gathered several most notable trends in the manufacturing of aerospace parts.

New-generation, lightweight parts

We can see a significant increase in the demand for lightweight, new-gen aerospace parts that allow better fuel efficiency.

Using the latest cutting-edge manufacturing processes and materials will allow you to produce parts that will improve the end structure of an aircraft, decrease its weight, and make it more cost- and energy-efficient.

Fuel-efficient aircraft

For aircraft to become more fuel-efficient, we need to build them from lightweight parts. Just remember – in the past, a computer was the size of a room. Nowadays, it’s the size of your palm.

The discovery of new, more efficient technologies allowed scientists to use more sophisticated parts to build more powerful computers. That same thing is now happening in the aerospace parts manufacturing industry. To produce a fuel-efficient aircraft, you have to adopt the latest manufacturing technologies and materials.

Decreasing greenhouse gas emissions

Nowadays, the biggest challenge to all of us on this planet is preserving it. Climate change is a real issue that companies and individuals worldwide are trying to prevent, if not reverse.

As an industry with a high impact on fuel gases, the most prominent players in aerospace parts manufacturing are now aiming to reduce greenhouse emissions.

Different Aerospace Parts that Can Be Manufactured

Different Aerospace Parts that Can Be Manufactured

With the help of CNC machining, manufacturers can produce many different types of aerospace parts. There’s also a difference in the materials used. For instance, structural vehicle parts will use materials other than those meant for high-temperature jet engine parts.

For example: check valve, actuators, large shafts, seat frames for aircraft, axles, gearbox components, electrical connectors, piston, rotors, separation discs, retainer rings, hinges, battery core, gas turbine compressor cases, hydraulic pump rotor shaft, oil or fuel filtration parts, helicopter rotor hubs, transmission components and housing, and more.

Standards and Requirements of Aerospace Parts Manufacturing

All aerospace parts manufacturers need to have certain certifications and fulfill several industry standards. Here’s what’s needed:

  • AS 9100 | ISO 9001:2015 certification
  • Good CNC machinery (preferably a 5-Axis CNC machine with a tight tolerance of ±0.001mm
  • A quality range of materials to choose from
  • Engineers and other specialists to lead, supervise, and inspect the manufacturing process and the end-products
  • Privacy and security policies set in place
  • A CMM inspection on the components that are produced – CMM stands for a coordinate-measuring machine (contact or laser) – to see if the produced component matches the CAD file

Besides the standards and requirements mentioned above, being a full-service aerospace parts manufacturing shop will also help. Clients always prefer a manufacturer that acts as a one-stop-shop. A full-service aerospace parts manufacturer will cover the entire product development process – from design, prototype to production, heat treating, painting, testing, etc.

Which Materials Can We Use for Aerospace Parts Manufacturing?

Different materials have different features that make them better for some purposes but worse for others. When choosing the most appropriate material for aerospace parts, consider factors such as strength, durability, heat resistance, weight, corrosion/rust resistance, etc. Let’s see the most commonly used materials in aerospace parts manufacturing.

Steel

Steel

Due to its toughness and durability, stainless steel is considered ideal for manufacturing certain aerospace parts.

We recommend using stainless steel as a good quality material for different engine parts, tanks, panels, and exhaust components.

Aluminum

Aluminum

Aluminum is perhaps one of the most well-known materials in aerospace parts manufacturing. In fact, before the discovery of new composites and alloys, aluminum aerospace parts were the norm.

Even though newer materials replaced aluminum for certain aerospace parts, being so lightweight, cheap, but strong means that it’s still a great material choice.

Titanium

Titanium

Aerospace parts manufacturers use titanium for different engine parts, structural frames of aircraft, hydraulic systems, and machinery components. Of course, titanium is way heavier than aluminum. However, titanium is a strong material, so that’s why aerospace parts manufacturers can use less and still preserve the strength and durability of a component. On top of that, titanium is impressively corrosion-resistant.

On the other hand, titanium is much more expensive. Due to its price, manufacturers usually use it only for parts that require extreme resistance to heat or corrosion.

Tungsten

Tungsten

Tungsten as a material is known for its features of balance and minimizing vibrations. Having this in mind, aerospace parts manufacturing shops usually use tungsten for different machinery parts.

Due to being incredibly heavy, tungsten has excellent stabilization properties. These properties make the material perfect as a balancing mass in rotorcraft blades or gyro control, as examples.

Superalloys

Superalloys

With unmatched performance in corrosion, oxidation, and high temperatures, superalloys are some of the most durable materials for aerospace parts manufacturing.

Due to their high performance under severe conditions, we usually use superalloys to manufacture compressors, turbine stages, and even the hottest parts of jet engines.

Composites

In recent years, aircraft manufacturers have shown an increased demand for parts made of composite materials, such as Glass/Carbon Fiber Reinforced plastic.

Composites are perfect for manufacturing lightweight and efficient aerospace parts. Plus, they’re a much more cost-effective option for manufacturing aerospace parts.

Learning the difference between titanium and aluminum and the features of other materials can help you decide on the best one to use for your specific parts.

What Are the Biggest Challenges of Manufacturing Aerospace Parts?

Manufacturing aerospace parts is a complex industry that is heavily regulated. In aerospace, a single, tiny mistake can prove to be disastrous. Aerospace parts manufacturing shops face many challenges, but three of them are the most prominent ones: an unstructured manufacturing process, materials of low quality, and unsophisticated equipment.

An unstructured manufacturing process

A well-defined process and workflow structure are crucial for satisfying the standards and requirements of the aerospace parts industry.

All aerospace parts need a CAD file to program the CNC machine and achieve tight tolerance and quality. Furthermore, as an aerospace parts manufacturer, you should always inspect every component you produce.

Low quality of materials

The materials used in the manufacturing of aerospace parts have to be appropriate for their intended use. For example, some materials are resistant to high temperatures, so these are best for jet engine components.

Some materials are more robust, some are more heat-resistant, and others excel at durability. When choosing a suitable material, always ensure it’s the correct one for that purpose and its quality meets industry standards.

Unsatisfactory machining equipment

And finally, our third challenge to tackle is the lack of modern machining equipment. Often, aerospace parts will have a complex geometrical form that requires more than just a 3-Axis CNC machine.

Producing complex geometrical and structural shapes requires precision and multi-directional cutting. You can only achieve that with the latest 5-Axis CNC machinery. Using the 5-Axis CNC machine can replace several other processes, thus, cutting down on production time.

Do All Aerospace Parts Manufacturers Have an MOQ?

Although most aerospace parts manufacturers have an MOQ, you can also find some that don’t. Some on-demand aerospace parts manufacturing shops, such as DEK, don’t have any MOQ.

Cutting-edge machinery such as the 5-Axis CNC replaces multiple manufacturing processes into one single operation. That cuts back on production time and makes it more cost-effective, allowing aerospace parts shops to accept low volume or even single-item orders.

Collaborating with an aerospace parts manufacturing shop with a low (or zero) MOQ and producing low-volume orders can be your best bet when it comes to quality. You can be sure that such manufacturers will take care of quality instead of just filling a quantity quota.

To Sum Up

The high impact and stress that aerospace vehicles go through on their journeys best explain the need to have quality, durable, stable, and resistant parts. Safety is a crucial guiding principle in aerospace parts manufacturing.

Moving forward, we can see that the trend falls on sustainable, fuel-efficient aerospace components. Furthermore, the latest technologies allow manufacturers to cut production time and waste material.

The advantages of the latest 5-Axis CNC machining technology and the speed of execution allow us a faster delivery yet a better-quality production. In return, we can afford to work with no MOQs and produce aerospace parts in low-volume orders. An individual and personalized approach that fits the clients’ requests is our final tip for aerospace parts manufacturing.

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About the Author

Austin Peng, Co-founder of DEK, specializes in CNC machining, 3D printing, urethane casting, rapid tooling, injection molding, metal casting, sheet metal, and extrusion.

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