The March 2018 edition of Manufacturing Engineering is available as a digital magazine. Links to individual articles are below:
Additive manufacturing holds potential for many possible new frontiers in the aerospace industry, and manufacturers in aviation and space flight are reaching for those new vistas. But they’re held back at less than warp speed due to a lack of awareness, unmet technological needs and the absence of a formal regulatory process in their highly regulated industry.
The list of aircraft parts now being made with composites has grown longer than a TSA screening line: the fuselage, empennage (tail section), wings (including skins, stringers, spars, clips, and wing boxes), nacelles, control surfaces (ailerons, flaps), nose skin, and even floor beams. Plus internal non-airframe components like levers, interior braces and panels. Oh, and helicopter rotors. Then add in the newer metal-matrix composites (MMCs) and ceramic-matrix composites (CMCs), things like the fan in the hot zone of the engine. Composite use is growing, and methods for machining them is advancing
While still a tiny fraction of the aerospace composites market, the use of metal-matrix composites (MMCs) and ceramic-matrix composites (CMCs) in engine parts has grown substantially over the last few years because they can run at higher speeds and handle more heat.
New technologies—including machine learning, mobile apps and advanced analytics—help manufacturers keep tabs on fast-paced factory-floor operations. Manufacturing operations depend on getting the right information at precisely the right moment, ensuring that products get built on time, to quality specs. With the latest enterprise resource management (ERP) software, this critical data flow is often coming via the cloud, as more manufacturers become comfortable with it as a repository for key manufacturing information.
Thread milling, a fundamental metalworking process to create threads, is often the operation of choice when working with difficult-to-machine materials, such as titanium, tool steels, stainless steels, hardened steels and other superalloys. Thread milling has been used in the energy and automotive industries for some time, but now its popularity is growing in the aerospace and medical industries.
Known for being a universal and quick process, tapping is the process of making threads in previously drilled holes, and in most cases a tapped hole can be created faster than when using a thread mill. Tapping can generally thread deeper holes in harder materials and any type of machine—a lathe, mill, or drill press—can be used.
Beware predictions of the demise of any technology. If the early 1920s saw the dawn of the optical comparator, there has been much speculation about its sunset. That was especially true when vision systems started hitting their stride a few years ago. Many could see optical comparators were superfluous with the use of vision systems. Many thought the sunset of optical comparators was imminent. Many were wrong. Why?
As a specialist in aerospace machining parts and assemblies for aerospace and military applications, Next Intent Inc. is accustomed to earth-exiting challenges. An early one came in 2000, when the shop gained a contract to make the wheels and other components for the 2003 Mars Exploration Rovers—Spirit and Opportunity. Success led to work making several components for the 2011 Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) Rover—Curiosity. Machining was done with three-axis CNC machines, using four-axis positioning for more complex parts.
PERFECT-3D might not appear to be an acronym, but it is, standing for Process Enabled Repeatability For Extended Life & Consistent Tools. PERFECT-3D’s process for 3D printing of ceramics for complex components resulted from the collaboration of its parent company, Renaissance Services Inc. (Fairborn, OH), with the US Department of Defense, a major investment casting company, a large chemical company, and an aircraft engine manufacturer.
Toner Machining Technologies’ specialty is designing and building hydraulic workholding fixtures for high-volume parts production on CNC machining centers. Programmer/machinists rely heavily on Mastercam from CNC Software Inc. (Tolland, CT) for CAM programming to keep up with numerous low-volume production schedules, while continuing to meet strict dimensional tolerance requirements. Toner’s workholding solutions are meticulously designed and tested to make it possible to eliminate every second from machining cycles so that mass production takes place as efficiently as possible.
The way products and services are created and delivered is always changing. In the past, the pace of that change was relatively slow and organizations had plenty of time to adapt to and plan for new ways of doing things. Not anymore. Today, disruptive change seems to happen every day.
Advanced Manufacturing Now
Aerospace and defense manufacturing is known for its complex designs, continual changes and the need to negotiate tight margin requirements. At Elite Aviation Products (EAP), a division of Elite Aerospace Group (Irvine, CA), we face these challenges every day. Meeting customer requirements and maintaining the highest quality standards, as well as meeting regulatory requirements, are key concerns for EAP.
Interest in AI is expanding exponentially, both in the number of articles one can read on the subject and, according to Google Trends, the number of searches for those articles. There are other forms of AI, such as design and shape optimization, generative design, and predictive analytics—to name a prominent few—and one might get the impression intelligent workers should feel threatened. Some experts say intelligence of the artificial kind may well replace us all.
Should the US Copyright Office oversee whether 3D printer operators can use feedstock not approved by their machine’s maker to turn out medical devices or airplane parts, or is that the role of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), respectively? The question is part of an argument directed to the Copyright Office by a lawyer who is asking the government to toss out qualifying language to an exemption to digital rights management law that lets users modify printers to use non-proprietary feedstock.
Machining aerospace materials is a challenging task. Not only are machining operations tightly controlled, a wide variety of workpiece materials are employed, including aluminum, titanium, and carbon-fiber reinforced plastics (CFRPs). The following is a brief guide to cutting tool options for successful machining of airframe components. All of the tools referenced are manufactured by Mitsubishi Materials.
According to Tim Cook, CEO of Apple Inc., “The way we look at manufacturing is this: The US’s strategy should be to skate where the puck is going, not where it is.” Cook’s quotation reflects a good strategy for any individual, company or organization looking to be competitive in a future marketplace.
Mastercam just opened its public beta for Mastercam 2019. The company started broad public beta releases several years ago and they have been a huge factor in moving the software forward. Thanks to the public beta releases many shops give their practical input about what they need before the release officially hits the streets. Also, NC simulation developer CGTech is shipping its new Vericut Version 8.1.2 CNC machine simulation and optimization software. In addition to new features making it more powerful and easier to use, more than 150 customer-driven enhancements and software requests have been implemented in the update.
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has a long, distinguished history and tradition in mechanical and applied engineering sciences, and the university will soon celebrate the opening of a long-planned, multi-million-dollar expansion to its Mechanical Science and Engineering (MechSE) building. UIUC has been home to many notable alumni that excelled as entrepreneurs, creating companies such as Netscape, Advanced Micro Devices, PayPal, Oracle, Lotus Software, YouTube, and Tesla Motors, to name a few.
The foundation of a system is the machine tool. Every facet of a manufacturing process is an outgrowth of the machine’s fundamental design and construction integrity. The ideal is a core competency machine—perhaps even an application-specific one—with high volumetric accuracy designed to run for 75,000 hours and hold the process together through that time period. This is true whether you are a global OEM or a small job shop.