Posted November 5, 2020

Aerospace Parts Manufacturing 101: A Guide for 2021

Crew Dragon spacecraft of the private American company SpaceX in space, showing the criticality of precision aerospace parts manufacturing.

Aerospace technology has always been a fascinating story to follow. From aviation pioneers to the international space station and the next generation of space vehicles, the race to space has for years kept us on the edge of our seats. There is one part of this story, though, that isn’t as well known: For us to marvel at these majestic aircraft and space vehicles conquering the final frontier, someone must first build the hardware that makes it all happen.

While any type of manufacturing requires a good degree of precision, the aerospace sector demands the most precisely machined parts possible. After all, spaceflight creates an incredible amount of stress on a vehicle. The high performance of the spacecraft itself, combined with the rapidly changing environment the vehicle is passing through, demands that each part is carefully manufactured to its specifications. 

Without this level of precision, these parts can fail or induce failure in other components of the vehicle. Here’s a closer look at the challenges aerospace companies contend with and how precision aerospace parts manufacturing done by a skilled CNC machine shop is essential to success.

The Parts Challenges Faced by Aerospace Companies 

There are many challenges associated with manufacturing parts for use in aerospace applications, but the ones that are at the top of the list revolve mostly around quality.

Quality in materials

Aerospace parts may require the use of materials that are not commonly used in regular manufacturing. Metals that are used to build aerospace parts will require different tempers depending on their application in aircraft and spacecraft. These materials must meet certain certifications, and not all machine shops have the expertise needed to work with them. There is a difference, for instance, in 6061 aluminum between certified grades and pot stock. Not all machine shops have the capabilities to work with the grades of aluminum that are required for aerospace applications.

Quality in manufacturing

Aerospace parts can also be very complex in their design, with precise tolerances that must be observed during their manufacturing. This requires a high level of precision fabrication that not all shops are set up to do. 3D printing, for example, will create high-quality parts, but they may not have the durability required for flight. CNC machining, on the other hand, uses automated tools to precisely create parts from solid material, giving the part the strength needed for its applications.

Quality in process

Another important aspect of aerospace parts manufacturing is the processes used during fabrication. Many shops do not give the detailed attention required for fabricating precision parts and may even produce parts that aren’t 100% complete. Not only can this cause problems for the final product the parts are intended for, but correcting the problem requires you to alter the part before it can be used. This ends up costing you additional time and money you didn’t plan for.

Challenges like these can cost aerospace innovators significantly in the way of time delays. They can, however, be addressed by focusing on the following details.

How to Address Aerospace Parts Manufacturing Challenges

For the precision parts that are suitable for the requirements of the aerospace industry, it’s critical to work with a machine shop that is set up with the following to ensure the quality of their work:

  • Materials: The first step in crafting an aerospace component is to ensure that the best materials are used for the parts. A machine shop that is set up for aerospace parts manufacturing should have a network of suppliers from which they source the highest quality materials. Your shop should be able to get the materials you need for your project, even if that means a custom order. 
  • Certifications: The shop should also be experienced in working with materials certified for use in aerospace and have an in-depth understanding of their certification requirements. They also should know how those certifications are to be applied in the production of the industry’s products and be able to obtain any certified materials you need for your project. Additionally, the shop should carry a wide range of other certifications to cover processes, such as ISO 9001 for quality management, and for first article inspections.
  • Process: Another important aspect of being an aerospace parts manufacturer is to have a well-defined workflow that can repeatedly fabricate precision parts. To ensure the strength required in aerospace applications, parts should be CNC machined via processes such as milling and turning, which can accommodate complex geometries and tight tolerances while building a rigorous part out of solid material. 
  • Engineering: Precision parts for the aerospace industry must be produced from detailed CAD/CAM information to achieve the highest levels of quality. The best machine shops work with both your CAD data and the drawings you provide to catch every specified detail of your part, including unique finishings or other critical requests. This requires an experienced engineering team at the shop working together with manufacturing to produce the level of precision required for aerospace parts.
  • Low to mid-volume production: To create the precision necessary for aerospace applications, the machine shop that builds their business around the model of low-volume production runs can help ensure the highest quality. This allows the shop to operate with the goal of carefully crafting your parts rather than simply stamping out a quota of work.

Work with a Skilled CNC Machine Shop for Your Aerospace Project

Producing the parts required of the aerospace industry takes a machine shop that exhibits all of the qualities discussed above, and the skill and experience to meet your unique needs. When you work with a shop that has the materials capabilities, the engineering and certification expertise, and the high-quality processes in place to create your parts to your precise specifications, you can be certain your aerospace project will withstand the rigors of its applications.

Plethoras advanced CNC machine shop services focus on lower quantity production runs to ensure the highest quality in our work. Our team uses your CAD data and drawings to accommodate every detail you’ve specified, including unique finishings, special-order certified materials, and the needed tools to complete your project. Work with us today to fulfill all of your aerospace parts manufacturing requirements. To get started, upload your design files to Quote My Part or call us at 415-726-2256.

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The Plethora Team

The Plethora team is your go-to CNC manufacturer for hardware done right the first time. We have the tools and experience needed to create high quality custom parts quickly and with precision, whether you need a prototype or production run.

Topics: Aerospace