Entrepreneurs and existing manufacturers are making 3D printers that automate production of composite parts, and are unique in their design.
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Automation in manufacturing is more important than ever, reducing costs and improving quality. While it is important in assembling cars, machining engines, or drilling holes in airframes, is it important to metrology operations as well? “Absolutely,” explained Michael Kleemann, engineering manager VRSI (Plymouth, MI).
There’s an old saw that if bumblebees were aeronautical engineers they would know they can’t fly. Quite apart from the miracle of their flight, bees also happen to make a lightweight structure of surprising strength, just the sort of thing you’d want if you were building aircraft: honeycomb.
Lightweighting is so established it’s now part of marketing for new vehicles. Automakers routinely detail how much less models weigh than their predecessors. General Motors Co., for example, has said a range of its vehicles is anywhere from almost 250 lb (112.5 kg) to 700 lb (315 kg) lighter.
When a contract manufacturer sees an opportunity in the competitive aerospace market, it sets priorities aimed at providing the right combination of processes required to meet the industry’s exacting demands. Precision machining and finishing, parts inspection, and, of course, certifications from OEMs and industry alliances are at the top of the list. Increasingly, aerospace suppliers like Volvo Aero Connecticut (Newington, CT) are benefiting from five-axis machining, advanced CNC controls, motors and drives, robotic deburring, and on-machine inspection for a competitive advantage.
From Boeing 787s to new Navy destroyers, fiber-reinforced composites are gaining in use. As production scales up, more-efficient manufacturing remains a focus. One key to that efficiency is tooling for composites. These molds and forms give the final shape to a part, and are often integral to their final curing.
A recent effort by the Norton Advanced Applications Engineering Group demonstrates that for difficult-to-machine materials, grinding can be an economical alternative to other machining processes.
The additive manufacturing revolution is in full stride, flying in aircraft and giving manufacturers a robust tool for design and production
Friction welding may be just the recipe for joining lightweight materials
The growing need for nano and micro components in the medical industries is challenging manufacturers to continually improve upon their manufacturing processes and take a scientific approach to injection molding and tooling.