Additive, Data-Driven Technology Advance Aerospace Manufacturing
In addition to economic forces, the technologies shaping the future of manufacturing show particularly significant promise for manufacturers of aircraft parts.
More people in more places than ever before want to fly, and aircraft manufacturers have been happy to meet demand. Manufacturing in this sector is robust, and IMTS offers a place for the entire supply chain to come together, with operations ranging from small job shops to large original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and defense contractors seeking out the latest in productivity-enhancing manufacturing technology. These manufacturers require the most sophisticated machining technology to cope with complex airfoils and other geometries cut from materials like titanium and heat-resistant nickel alloy. Among other technologies, their focus will be on multi-axis machining equipment; cutters designed for constant-engagement tool paths; and, as demonstrated by manufacturers like Arundel Machine Tool, sophisticated metrology systems needed to meet stringent quality-control specifications.
Of course, similar statements could have been made about aerospace manufacturing two years ago at IMTS 2016. That said, a lot has changed since then. Technology for interconnecting equipment and analyzing data is more advanced. More importantly, such technology can be particularly advantageous in an industry that demands reliability, and extensive documentation of that reliability, to keep planes in the air and people alive. Recognizing the importance of data-driven manufacturing, manufacturers like LMI Aerospace understand that connecting and monitoring machines is only the first step.
The aerospace sector also has much to gain from advances in another technology shaping the future of the industry: additive manufacturing. For one, materials like titanium are expensive, and building parts from the ground up reduces scrap compared to machining them from blocks. For another, additive enables geometries that couldn’t otherwise be produced, such as complex lattice designs that make aircraft structures lighter and consolidate previously assembled parts into one piece, among other advantages. Additive technology is also practical, even for production purposes, at the low volumes that characterize aerospace part production. Incodema3D stands out as one example of an aerospace manufacturer leveraging additive technology to its advantage. Expect additive systems at IMTS 2018 to offer larger build envelopes, more varied materials, better process control and generally greater capability and cost-effectiveness than ever before.
Advances in both additive and data-driven manufacturing are applicable well beyond the aerospace industry. (For examples of this, make sure to visit the AMT Emerging Technology Centers at IMTS.) That said, it shouldn’t be surprising to see aerospace demonstrations and exhibits highlighted prominently throughout IMTS 2018, particularly when these technologies are involved.