Aerospace CNC Machining: Precision CNC Machining Guide
Aerospace CNC machining is now one of the most critical components of the industry. To function properly, components for commercial airplanes, fighter jets, spacecraft, and missiles must withstand extreme and fluctuating temperatures and altitude pressures. Aerospace CNC machining allows manufacturers to produce safe, reliable parts for such mission-critical applications.
The extremely high level of precision needed within the aerospace industry makes CNC machining a suitable manufacturing process for the sector. The capability of this process to achieve very tight tolerances for metal and plastic parts allows it to offer robust solutions in the industry.
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Over the past 20 years, SAN-E has earned a hard-earned reputation for efficiency, quality, reliability and on-time delivery.The SAN-E team understands that each customer and application is unique, and we will work closely with you during prototyping, production, assembly, inspection, packaging and final delivery to exceed your expectations.
Our 55,000 square foot climate-controlled facility is equipped with horizontal and vertical CNC machining centers to best serve you with repeatable accuracy and rapid production. As an ISO 9001:2008 certified company, we work with the world’s leading companies in the aircraft industry, such as Boeing and World Aerospace.
What is Aerospace CNC Machining?
Aerospace CNC machining is the process of using CNC technology to manufacture precise and complex components for use in the aerospace industry.This CNC machining process involves creating CNC machining aerospace parts to assemble and maintain aircraft and space shuttles.
Aerospace CNC machining is essential to the aerospace industry, as it allows for the manufacture of high-precision parts that are critical to the safety and performance of aircraft and spacecraft. Aerospace CNC machining can be used to create components such as engine parts, turbine blades, landing gear, avionics, and structural components.
Importance of Precision in the Aerospace Industry
Precision machining is an important aspect of the aerospace industry. This industry has many high production standards and stricter safety controls for CNC machined aerospace parts.
Unlike other industries, the aerospace industry requires the tightest and highest levels of dimensionality, tolerances and performance for each part. This is to ensure that these parts do not fail in flight.
A single failure or imperfect component can cost thousands of dollars for aircraft and space stations. In addition, poor production techniques often pose a significant safety risk to the end user. That’s why aerospace machining companies strive to meet all of these requirements. At the same time, they must ensure that they can produce aircraft fast enough to meet market demand.
Using state-of-the-art CNC machining equipment, qualified manufacturing services such as SAN-E can produce aerospace prototypes and end-use components for aerospace companies. Using aircraft-grade metals and plastics, CNC machine systems can achieve tolerances of up to 0.002 mm. In addition, sophisticated post-processing and inspection systems ensure that finished aerospace prototypes and parts are fully compliant.
Applications of Aerospace CNC Machining
CNC machining has many applications in different industries. An airplane is made up of millions of parts. As a result, many manufacturing processes are involved in their production. These processes range from sheet metal machining and injection molding to advanced manufacturing processes such as aerospace CNC machining and 3D printing.
As we know, 5-axis machining helps to produce complex aircraft parts. This aerospace machining process allows parts to be milled, drilled and manipulated along X, Y, Z and linear axes. These processes occur simultaneously without the need to reconfigure or install components. Why is complexity an asset in aerospace? In short: weight. Producing parts that are partially hollowed out or have complex geometric shapes can reduce weight. This operation does not require sacrificing quality or performance.
Aerospace CNC Machining combines sophisticated design with workflow software and state-of-the-art inspection processes. This helps these companies produce end-use components and high-quality tooling components for aerospace manufacturers. There are several types of aerospace parts produced by CNC machining, and it is impossible to list them all. However, some important examples include hydraulic manifolds, transmissions, fuel bodies, landing gear, electrical connectors, housings, etc.
CNC machining not only plays an important role in the production of aircraft components for final use. It also plays a vital role in space research and development. This role allows aerospace companies to quickly iterate on new component designs, test them, and if needed, edit them.
1.Application of CNC Machining in Aviation
In aviation, CNC machining is used to manufacture a wide range of components, from small, intricate parts to large structural elements. CNC machines are used to produce engine parts, landing gear components, cockpit controls, structural components, and more.
One of the primary advantages of CNC machining in aviation is its ability to produce highly accurate and repeatable parts. This is critical in aerospace, where even the smallest deviations from design specifications can have significant impacts on safety and performance.
There are numerous applications for CNC machining within the aerospace industry, the most common of which being:
- Shafts. Shafts are important for transferring power in aerospace applications. CNC machining can produce strong parts using heat-resistant materials.
- Seats. Seating is a significant weight consideration in air- and spacecraft. However, aluminum and other CNC-machinable lightweight metals are capable of making sturdy seats.
- Valve components. The aerospace industry has common uses for these small components, and CNC-machined valves ensure part accuracy and efficient, safe operations.
- Oxygen generation components. CNC machining is capable of creating lightweight yet durable, temperature-resistant components for oxygen generation safety systems.
- Housings. The long, large components in missile housings require strong materials and accurate machining, which CNC processes provide.
- Electrical connectors. Based on space and weight considerations, manufacturers can use CNC machining to create these essential parts of aircraft electrical systems.
- Filter bodies. SAN-E has experience in accurately machining complicated air and liquid filter bodies, having fabricated a multi-feature filter body with a complex geometry for a client using only one set-up. We were able to decrease turn times and maintain total tolerances of 0.006 inches or less utilizing a single Swiss screw machine.
2.Application of aerospace CNC Machining in Space Travel
In space travel, CNC machining is critical for the production of spacecraft components and parts. The parts produced by CNC machines are used in the construction of everything from rocket engines to satellite components. CNC machining ensures that these parts are manufactured to precise specifications, which is essential for the safe and reliable operation of spacecraft.
As you know, it is important to build spacecraft that can withstand life in space. Precision comes into play again here. Not only do the parts have to work properly, but they also have to ensure the safe operation of the spacecraft. This ensures the protection of the crew and the spacecraft itself. Since precision manufacturing is the focus of CNC machining, this process is a must.
Materials Used in Aerospace CNC Machining
When it comes to aerospace manufacturing, people usually immediately think of an aircraft’s engine or wings, but millions of parts make up an aircraft. For example, the Boeing 747 comes with over 6 million parts. Not all the parts are produced using CNC machining, but there are several materials used in an airplane assembly.
There are two key properties determine the CNC machining materials used by aerospace companies. They are strength and weight. Although considered strong, metals such as steel are not ideal for most parts. This is because they are incredibly heavy, leading to less fuel-efficient planes.
Therefore, titanium and aluminum alloys material are good choice for aerospace CNC machining. Aluminum is lightweight and has good corrosion resistance, making it a popular choice for aerospace parts. Titanium is strong, lightweight, and has excellent corrosion resistance, making it ideal for aerospace applications that require high strength and durability.
On its own, aluminum is lighter than titanium, but only half as strong. However, this highly processable metal is more cost effective than titanium. It is also well suited to a wide range of aircraft parts.
Metal components boast more applications in an aircraft’s functional structures, but there are various types of plastics, including peek, polycarbonate, and acrylic, are used in aerospace CNC machining for their lightweight and durable properties. They help produce parts such as interior wall panels, ventilation ducts, aircraft doors, wiring conduits, bearings, and more.
Plastics materials are lightweight, which is a critical factor in aerospace applications. The weight of an aircraft or spacecraft directly affects its fuel consumption, speed, and payload capacity. CNC plastics parts help reduce weight, resulting in more efficient and cost-effective aerospace vehicles.
Aerospace Machining with 5 Axis CNC
Aerospace machining with 5-axis CNC refers to the use of advanced machining technology to create complex aerospace parts with high precision and accuracy. 5-axis CNC machines are capable of cutting and shaping metal or other materials in multiple directions simultaneously, allowing for the creation of complex shapes and intricate designs.
Since the aerospace industry continues to evolve, continuous reconfiguration and adaptation of parts are possible with 5 axis CNC machining. Generally, this robust process can cope better with the technicality and scope of aerospace components. Therefore, engineers can mill, drill, or manufacture them to the desired specifications of the aircraft. In addition, 5 axis machines meet the high-performance standards of aircraft CNC machining.
Benefits of Using CNC Machining for Aerospace Parts
There are many advantages of using CNC machining for Aerospace parts, it benefits include;
- Precision and Accuracy: CNC machines can produce extremely precise and accurate parts with tolerances as small as a few thousandths of an inch. This level of precision is essential for aerospace parts, which must meet strict safety and performance standards.
- Light weight: For equipment that takes flight, weight is an important consideration in its parts. CNC machining is capable of producing thin-walled components and structures from lightweight yet strong materials to fulfill this need.
- Cost-Effective: While CNC machines are initially expensive, they offer long-term cost savings by reducing material waste and minimizing the need for manual labor. Additionally, CNC machines can operate continuously, which increases productivity and reduces production time.
- Consistency: CNC machining is a highly repeatable process, which means that identical parts can be produced time and time again with consistent quality. This is important for the aerospace industry, where parts must be reliable and interchangeable.
- Versatility: CNC machines can produce parts from a wide range of materials, including aluminum, titanium, stainless steel, and composites. This versatility makes CNC machining ideal for aerospace parts, which require materials with specific strength-to-weight ratios and other properties.
Materials for Aerospace Machined Parts
Aerospace parts require strong and durable yet lightweight material composition. Aluminum is ideal for its abundance, cost-effectiveness, and favorable strength-to-weight ratio.
- Aluminum Alloy Series 7xxx. Containing zinc, copper, magnesium, and chromium, these alloys possess high strength for military aircraft applications.
- Aluminum Alloy Series 6xxx. Combined with magnesium and silicon, this versatile series resists corrosion and has good formability and strength.
- Aluminum Alloy Series 2xxx. Alloyed with copper, this series features high strength with superior machinability and good workability. Its aerospace applications include wing and fuselage structures.
In addition, SAN-E utilizes a diverse selection of materials — even exotic metals — of varying strengths and price points. Available options include stainless steel, high-stress alloys, carbon, and titanium.
The aerospace industry demands high precision as each part must meet the highest dimensional, tolerance and performance requirements to ensure safety and flight performance. CNC machining allows for high precision machining that ensures the safety and reliability of aerospace components and can be produced quickly to meet market demand.