Determining Heat And Water Resistant Aerospace MaterialsMatt Kerster
The aerospace industry makes use of a massive variety of materials for production, repairs, and fabrication of parts and components. And these materials are all regulated in some manner.
Given the nature and exacting standards of aircraft production and the aerospace industry in general, the materials used must be exceptional in several aspects. As an article from Cambridge University Press has noted,
“Selection of materials systems for aerospace applications, such as airframes or propulsion systems, involves multiple and challenging requirements that go beyond essential performance attributes (strength, durability, damage tolerance, and low weight).
Materials must exhibit a set of demanding properties, be producible in multiple product forms, and demonstrate consistent high quality. Furthermore, they must be both commercially available and affordable. The list of materials meeting these requirements is not long. Integration and transformation of such highly engineered materials into airframe structures is likewise complex.”
Among the many qualities and characteristics required in aerospace materials is resistance to heat and to moisture.
Aerospace Materials for Heat Resistance
Aluminum has been the workhorse and standard material for aerospace construction and MRO use for decades. However, the overall application of aluminum alloys in aerospace is gradually diminishing. And aluminum is not known for durability and resistance to extreme temperatures.
The aerospace industry has long relied on aluminum alloys to fabricate its parts. For generations aluminum has been considered a state-of-the-art material and had the added benefit of being relatively inexpensive, according to an article from Composites Manufacturing Magazine.
However, while aluminum has been the mainstay for almost 100 years, modern aerospace materials have changed.
Newer heat resistant alloys are being used increasingly in aircraft engines where temperatures can reach 3,800 degrees Fahrenheit. These include nickel alloys, titanium alloys, and even some nonmetal composite materials like ceramics. But aluminum hasn’t been totally eliminated from the equation.
For example, titanium aluminide (TiAl) and aluminum lithium (Al-Li), have become increasingly popular in the aerospace industry. This can be attributed to the metal’s ability to withstand high temperatures and offer improved thrust-to-weight ratio in aircraft engines, largely due to their lighter weight – almost half of traditional nickel alloys.
Aerospace Materials for Water Resistance
Resistance to water, moisture, and related corrosion are not the common hallmarks of most aluminum alloys. However, 5052 has a good resistance to both a marine atmosphere and the potential saltwater corrosion it can incur, as well as exhibiting excellent workability.
On the other hand, titanium and titanium alloys are often used for aircraft construction owing to their high strength properties, high-temperature resistance, and a high degree of corrosion resistance relative to aluminum or steel.
In the aerospace industry, stainless steel is highly prized and used extensively due to superb corrosion resistance. Every grade of stainless steel material can withstand atmospheric and pure water environments while exhibiting significantly minor levels of corrosion.
In addition, the higher performance grades such as 304 are a great choice when corrosion resistance is important. And many of these high performance grades of stainless steel are able to resist corrosion in alkaline solutions, acid, and marine environments.
For example, while there is little difference between the alloys when it comes to strength, corrosion resistance is where the stainless steel grade 316 rates far higher than 304.
Aircraft steel and stainless steel, however, do have limitations when it comes to use in aerospace parts and components.
As the National Air and Space Museum notes in one of their websites,
“Steel can be up to four times stronger and three times stiffer than aluminum, but it is also three times heavier. It is used for certain components like landing gear, where strength and hardness are especially important. It has also been used for the skin of some high-speed airplanes, because it holds its strength at higher temperatures better than aluminum.”
Aerospace Materials and AAA Air Support
AAA Air Support has been one of the premier manufacturers of roll formed products and aircraft roll formed stringers for almost two decades. Consequently, we know aerospace manufacturing and what it takes to succeed. That includes the agility, flexibility, and intuitive responsiveness to meet our customers’ real needs and concerns.
Our in-house tooling design and manufacturing can supply materials to print at an affordable price. And with our extensive range of existing inventory and immediate availability, we offer delivery of a variety of customer part numbers and alloys as a next-day shipment. In addition, we can produce as little as 12 feet of material, if needed, and custom shape orders are always welcome.
AAA Air Support provides world-class customer service and a number of great roll forming benefits that include:
- Custom Roll Forming
- Tight Tolerances
- Short Runs
- In-house Tooling Design and Manufacture
So, no matter whether you need 100 feet or more of an aluminum extrusion product, or just a few feet of stainless-steel tubing, AAA Air Support is fully capable of shipping your part orders accurately, quickly, efficiently, and according to our quality aerospace standards.
And our ‘AOG Mission’ is to provide your company with the materials to complete the project or get the airplane back in the air service. All of which means that your requests are always our ‘top priority’.
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