Aerospace sheet metal fabrication combines traditional fabrication methods and assembly techniques with advanced material assembly, production processes, and procedures that differ from other metal fabrication processes. The aerospace industry is not simply about aircraft or spacecraft – it comprises both aeronautics and astronautics. Aerospace fabrication requires high precision and tight tolerances with the finest-quality materials, skilled personnel with extensive experience utilizing state-of-the-art equipment and technology, and the capability to perform complex assemblies and integration that meet the most stringent industry regulations.
The design, fabrication, and assembly of flying machines are an enormous undertaking. Finding the right partner for your aerospace sheet metal fabrication project will take time and research. The questions you ask are important ones! Where cost considerations are always a factor in selecting a fabricator, experience and capabilities should be a top priority in the selection process.
To help ensure the success of finding an aerospace metal fabrication company to partner with, here are 4 tips to aid you in your search:
1. What Aerospace Fabrication Experience Does the Company Have?
The success of your project will hinge on the level of experience the fabricator you select has. Upfront, the company must have the reputation and experience in the field to manage the project efficiently and effectively. The experience to avoid costly mistakes, for example. Have they successfully completed similar fabrication projects? Accompanied with that experience is an expectation that your fabrication partner must also have the knowledge of industry codes and regulations. Be sure to ask.
Workforce experience is also vital. That a particular expertise in the trades is a given, but how that skill set relates to the fabrication of parts and components for aerospace is just as important. Finally, ask potential partners for references. A reputable and experienced metal fabrication company will have many. In total, make certain that the fabrication company’s experience and history match your project needs.
2. What Are the Fabricator’s Capabilities?
Equipment and resources are vital to the successful completion and outcome of your fabrication project. To meet the necessary performance and production standards, aerospace metal fabrication requires cutting-edge design and manufacturing technology. With regard to precision manufacturing of aerospace parts, look for fabricators that utilize fully automated CNC programmed technologies such as cutting, stamping, punching, and so forth. Automation increases and ensures that the highest quality standards are met in the manufacture of parts, components, and sub-assemblies.
In relation to production, does the fabricator have the capability to complete the entirety of the project under one roof? This is especially important where time is a factor.
Lastly, where time is an issue, after product assembly, ask if the company has the capability to crate and ship.
3. What Materials Are Used?
Because some fabrication shops only specialize in working with certain raw materials, it’s good to ask upfront if their expertise aligns with your material requirements. With regard to the modern aerospace industry, it’s highly likely that expertise would be in working with aluminum, and aluminum alloys and composites.
Aluminum’s lightweight, good formability and alloying, and relatively low cost make it a choice material in the fabrication of a variety of parts and components used in the manufacture of aircraft. Commercially pure aluminum, though lightweight, has a tensile strength of approximately 13,000 psi, and nearly doubles in strength with cold working.
When alloyed with other elements such as manganese, silicon, copper, magnesium, or zinc, the strength of aluminum is further increased. Combined with its high strength-to-weight ratio and good formability, aluminum also holds anti-corrosive properties that protect the material under the most extreme environmental conditions.
4. Standards and Compliance
As alluded to above, the fabrication of parts and components for aircraft must be in compliance with national and international standards and regulations that govern the design and manufacture of aircraft. All parts must meet a standard for airworthiness in accordance with approved procedures. Governing authorities such as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the US, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), and Transport Canada oversee and-or enforce regulations and approval processes for design, fabrication, and production standards. These bodies function independently as well as through international conventions and bilateral agreements to ensure the safety of air travel. Your fabricator must be knowledgeable of and in compliance with the regulations and procedures that govern the fabrication of aircraft parts. The ultimate success of your project depends on it.
To learn more about aerospace sheet metal fabrication and our capabilities at Quest-Tech, please contact us today!