CNC Machining Aerospace Parts: 5 Things You Need to Know

March 19, 2021

There is significant demand for machined components in the aerospace industry. In fact, the Boeing 747 is made up of over six million parts. With such a wide array of parts requiring various engineering materials, cutting-edge manufacturing practices and technologies are needed.

CNC machining is among the most widely used manufacturing methods in the aerospace industry. While it’s highly likely that you know at least something about this manufacturing method, here are five points you might not know about CNC machining aerospace parts.

#1 – Parts Made of Lightweight Metals are Crucial to the Performance of Aircraft

Aluminum and titanium are the most used metals in aircraft due to their high-strength. With that in mind, you may be wondering why these materials are more commonly used than steel — after all, it is stronger and cheaper than aluminum and on par with titanium in terms of strength.

It all boils down to the fact that these metals are more lightweight than steel.

Titanium is as strong as steel but 45% lighter, while aluminum is about 33% lighter. These lightweight metals are helping to increase fuel economy and overall efficiency of aircraft. But here’s the problem: these metals are often tough to machine manually.

CNC machinery boasts compatibility with a wide range of materials and is heavily relied on to fabricate these metals.

#2 – CNC Rapid Prototyping is Key in Aerospace R&D

R&D is an essential function in the aerospace industry, and CNC machining is at the forefront of the process. Because CNC machines rely on 3D CAD models and computer instructions to create parts, aerospace engineers can rapidly create new prototype designs, test them, and, if needed, edit them.

CNC rapid prototyping helps aerospace companies minimize costs and expenses since it eliminates the need to invest in tooling. More importantly, it helps aerospace companies meet regulatory requirements, such as ISO 9001:2015 and AS9001 standards.

#3 – 5-Axis CNC Machines are Helping to Fabricate More Complex Designs

5 axis CNC milling machine cutting aluminum turbine part - CNC machining aerospace parts

Aerospace part designs are becoming more and more complex. For example, NASA’s Orion bulkhead — the part that keeps the crew safe during their journey — is domed near the heat shield and features pockets normal to its surface. Also, aircraft landing gears and fuselage sections are enormous, featuring tiny details and requiring extremely tight tolerances.

5-axis CNC milling machines are used to machine these complex parts. They can achieve reaches and angles that might be impossible to achieve using 3- or 4-axis machines.

#4 – AI-assisted CNC Machinery is Helping Move Aerospace Part Production into the Future

Modern-day CNC machines used in the aerospace industry now feature Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning software. This is allowing aerospace companies to see accurate production metrics and achieve aerospace part production goals. This technology is also improving the quality and consistency of machined aerospace parts.

#5 – Nothing is as Important as Precision in Aerospace Parts Machining

Like in many other industries, aerospace companies rely on many third-party manufacturers for different parts. These parts usually require tight tolerances and must correctly mate together with parts created in other machine shops. As such, there is no room for geometrical errors during manufacture.

Through precision CNC machining, aerospace companies are able to create precise parts exactly to specification, achieving tolerances as small as 4μm. One third-party precision manufacturing company that has been bursting at the seams with custom aerospace part orders is Gensun Precision Machining.

This is because we offer custom machining services of the highest quality. We have state-of-the-art CNC machining equipment and experienced engineers, and our production facilities are ISO 9001:2015 certified.

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