Making material gains

Like an ancient alchemist trying to turn base metal to gold, today’s metallurgists are constantly striving to find that elusive chemical recipe that will produce an alloy with the kinds of mechanical properties the aerospace manufacturing industry has long been crying out for.

Aerospace designers will cunningly employ the term ‘unobtainium’ to refer to exotic or costly materials - or even when researching the development of a material that is perfect for their needs in every respect - except that it doesn’t actually exist!

Unobtainium can also be applied to those materials that are capable of withstanding the extreme temperatures required in the latest aero engines. Often, designers will daydream of designing an aircraft which requires components with the strength or resilience beyond that of available materials.

Titanium was once seen unchallenged as the industry’s lightweighting metal of choice, but whilst its unique, high strength-to-weight ratio properties and corrosion and temperature resistance ensured it has consolidated its standing as a firm favourite, non-metallic materials like carbon fibre-reinforced plastics are gradually eroding the metallic dominance within aerostructure manufacturing demands.

Meanwhile, exacting safety-critical demands mean we’ll always be faced with arduous and often torturous material certification requirements. Imagine a giant version of the Scales of Justice, where on one side you have the finished aircraft, and on the other a huge pile of documentation. The upshot being that the aircraft won’t fly until the documentation is the same weight as the aircraft!

For whatever story that might play out, designers live in hope that somehow base metal can eventually be turned into gold. They continue to look for that sweet spot; they’re still eager to tap into the mother lode hidden at the end of the runway.

Mike Richardson, editor

Related Articles

Flying with the alloy of the future

The aluminium fightback starts here. Mike Richardson visits Aeromet International’s Sittingbourne, Kent facility to catch up on the latest developments of its ground-breaking A20X aluminium alloy.
6 years ago Features

All for one, and one for all!

Mike Richardson caught up with Doncasters Group’s chief executive officer, David Smoot to learn more about the company’s showing at the last Paris Airshow and its endeavours in the aerospace manufacturing sector.
6 years ago Features

Made to measure

Walter’s aerospace component manager and specialist in titanium machining, Dirk Masur, explains how the company is improving titanium machining with the help of its special tools.
6 years ago Features
Most recent Articles

Glasgow to welcome latest Space-Comm conference

Registration for the inaugural Space-Comm Expo Scotland is now open. Space-Comm Expo, organised and owned by Hub Exhibitions, is the leading international space conference. This is the first time the Expo will come to Scotland, taking place September 11-12 at the SEC Glasgow.
2 days ago News

Mapal introduces NeoMill-Alu-QBig mills for aluminium

The NeoMill-Alu-QBig indexable insert milling cutter from Mapal stands for top performance in high-volume milling of aluminium. The tool manufacturer thus offers a very economical solution for use on high-performance machines, such as those found primarily in the aerospace industry.
2 days ago Products

Login / Sign up