Advanced Materials Used for Aircraft Manufacturing

The aerospace sector is a significant force in manufacturing and a big asset for the metalworking sector. What's driving the expansion? It is noted that there is an increase in the need for commercial air travel, an anticipated increase in defense spending, and a growing global manufacturing base. The fact that it makes up a sizable portion of the American manufacturing sector, however, implies that it will receive a lot of special subcontracting business from the biggest global aviation and defense companies right here in the United States. 

Demand is consistent, but there are also efforts being made to cut operational expenses. Manufacturing engineers are under pressure to utilize less fuel by decreasing an aircraft's weight and relieving certain assembly strains in order to realize possible cost savings of 20 to 50 percent.

Aluminum, the material that engineers used to produce the first fully metal aircraft in 1915, has been the primary material used in the aerospace industry for nearly a century. Aluminum was regarded as cutting-edge and practical, according to Composites Manufacturing Magazine. And while the metal has been useful for more than a century, aeronautical materials have evolved.

Heat-Resistant and Lightweight Alloys

Titanium alloys, nickel alloys, and nonmetal composite materials like ceramics are among the heat-resistant alloys frequently used in the development of aircraft engines, one of the most complex components that must withstand scalding temperatures of 3,800 degrees Fahrenheit or 2,100 degrees Celsius, according to Standridge. Ceramics, nonetheless, despite being able to tolerate high temperatures, can be difficult to shape. 

It is challenging to repair and modify titanium alloys, nickel alloys, and nonmetal composite materials without sacrificing structural integrity. The aerospace industry is gaining popularity for two particular alloys that have been around since the 1970s: titanium aluminide (TiAl) and aluminum-lithium (Al-Li). These materials have the ability to withstand high temperatures and improve the thrust-to-weight ratio in aircraft engines because they weigh only 50% as much as conventional nickel alloys.

Graphene

Because of the wide range of electrical uses, graphene is a material that more and more manufacturers are using in their designs. One example is the use of graphene in epoxy resins to increase the electrical conductivity of carbon composites used in fuselages.

Composite Materials

Engineers place a high focus on heat resistance, but they also consider material weight as a whole. Composite materials are lightweight, which enables manufacturers to create aircraft that are ultimately safer for passengers and more fuel-efficient. Since 1987, the utilization of composite materials in aerospace has increased every five years, according to ThoughtCo. The three primary categories of composite materials are carbon fiber, glass, and epoxy with aramid reinforcement. According to Composites Manufacturing Magazine, carbon-fiber composite blends are the ones that are best positioned for expansion and innovation. For instance, the Airbus A350 series' wings contain more than 50% carbon fiber.

Nanoparticles

As reinforced metal matrix composites, metal-matrix nanocomposites are "one of the most important nanocomposites for their high tensile strength and electrical conductivity," according to AzoNano. Other kinds of nanoparticles, such as those made of polymers and ceramics, are also in use.

Unsurprisingly, lightning strikes can damage airplanes, making metallic underwiring (even with carbon fiber components) a potentially risky component. According to Composites Manufacturing Magazine, companies incorporate nanoparticles in the CFRP wing to help shield against electromagnetic interferences to reduce the risk.


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