Final approach: The fine art of relationships

AMFeb19Features - ametek
AMFeb19Features - ametek

Fine Tubes and the aerospace sector have enjoyed a 70+ year relationship and it’s still going strong! AMETEK Specialty Metal Products (SMP) international sales manager EMEA, Michael Cullum looks at what the future holds for the company.


Having celebrated our 75th anniversary just last year, this seems like a good opportunity to reflect on the milestone achievements of Fine Tubes and on the opportunities that lie ahead.

Founded in Surbiton in 1943, Fine Tubes moved to Plymouth in 1962 and has been a major local employer in the city ever since. Success in supporting the development of the aerospace industry came early when the company started to supply tubing for the Vickers Viscount aircraft back in 1957. Fast forward to 1965 and the company was manufacturing advanced stainless-steel alloy tubes for Concorde, the world's first supersonic commercial airliner.

By 1999, the company was manufacturing titanium tubing for the hydraulic systems aboard the Eurofighter. Today, Fine Tubes is one of the few suppliers qualified to produce the high-pressure titanium tubes used in the hydraulic systems of the Airbus A380 and A350.

In the space arena, Fine Tubes supplied specialist titanium grade 2 tubing for the Chemical Propulsion System (CPS) of the European Space Agency's Solar Orbiter. Flying within 42 million kilometres of the Sun, enduring powerful bursts of atomic particles from explosions in the solar atmosphere, the Solar Orbiter will capture images of the solar poles for the first time, helping to explain how the Sun generates the magnetic fields that can have such a dramatic impact on Earth.

The reputation that Fine Tubes has won for first class product quality and reliability is one of the key reasons why so many leading military and commercial aerospace programmes use our high-performance tubes. Typically used in airframes, aircraft engines and instrumentation systems, where pilot and passengers equally rely on them to withstand the most critical conditions, our tubing products are manufactured in a wide range of stainless-steel, nickel and titanium alloys.

The stainless-steel tubes we manufacture include single phase austenitic and dual phase duplex grades, chosen for their good mechanical and corrosion resistance properties as well as their excellent fabrication characteristics. Nickel-based alloys offer excellent corrosion resistance in both aqueous and high temperature applications. In addition to their high melting points and resistance to oxidation and corrosion, nickel alloys are very ductile and are used for a wide range of applications, including high-temperature aircraft systems.

Because of its strength, unique density and corrosion resistance, titanium has found particular favour in the aerospace industry for applications such as aircraft hydraulic systems. The density of titanium is about 60% of that of steel- or nickel-based alloys giving significant weight savings in aerostructures. The tensile strength is better than that of austenitic or ferritic stainless-steels as it is corrosion resistant in most environments. The metal is non-magnetic too, and has good heat transfer properties, with a melting point higher than steel alloys. Currently, our metallurgical experts are designing new solutions in titanium for the mechanical tubes used in flight surface actuation systems such as wings, flaps and slats.

The future for specialised metals in the aerospace industry is set to be one of opportunities rather than challenges. The drive for lighter, more efficient engines is leading to higher temperatures and a growing demand for advanced nickel alloys. On the airframe side, titanium will continue to be the material of choice for hydraulic systems. Having supplied the aerospace industry with high performance tubes for over 60 years, I am confident that the Fine Tubes team, with its well-proven record, will continue to turn the design concepts of today into the industry standards of tomorrow.



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