Many companies in the Aerospace Industry have reported a need to further reduce costs. Global competition and dramatic changes in the economy has only increased this need. In fact, many executives have pointed to cost reduction as their greatest challenge. As part of many cost reduction programs, aerospace manufacturing firms have looked to advances in technology and management of raw materials and processes. Below are a few examples of such cost reduction strategies.
Aerospace engineers and designers can reduce costs by replacing metal materials used to manufacture aircraft components such as wings, engines, and fuel systems. High-performance metal replacement materials such as thermoplastic polymers offer mechanical, thermal and tribological properties, which make them ideal for replacing a variety of metals and specialty alloys. In addition to replacing metals, thermoplastic polymers can also substitute traditional thermoset composites and other plastics.
Improved Steel Scrap Management
Steel scrap, a by-product of the manufacturing process, is generally unused and considered waste. In some cases, steel scrap can account for as much as 30 percent of the total steel input. In aerospace manufacturing, steel scrap management is often lacking. This means that companies are not accounting for the value of scrap steel when reviewing component prices. By not accounting for this information, companies are unable to address this cost.
3D Printing Final Parts
Aerospace parts such as armrests can be produced using 3D printing technology. Use of this technology reduces turnaround time and production costs when compared with more traditional methods such as CNC machining. 3D printed parts are also significantly lighter than armrests that have been produced by other means.
Faster Cures for Composite Parts
Composite parts consist of materials made from a broad range of substances.
In aerospace manufacturing, the latest composites are mainly thermoset polymers, which must be heat cured into specific forms. Prior to curing, thermoset polymers are usually liquid or in a malleable form. Curing hardens the thermoset polymer and cannot be returned to its original form. A heating chamber is required for curing process. A research article titled Curing Pressure Influence of Out-of-Autoclave Processing on Structural Composites for Commercial Aviation provided a demonstration on the suitability of OOA (Out of Autoclave Technology) to manufacture high-quality composites at a greatly reduced cost.
The uniform compressive force characteristics of shrink tape make it an effective processing aid for consolidating advanced composite materials. This use of shrink tape allows aerospace manufacturers to reduce the steps necessary to achieve sufficient part compaction. Shrink tape with a PTFE release coat can also be removed cleanly from the part post-cure, eliminating 24 hour-long H20 soak of parts. This reduction of time and materials can result in a significant amount of savings for aerospace manufacturing firms.
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