Custom formatters often acquire new levels of expertise via their involvement in academics, associations, and joint projects with research centers.

With formatting services for thermoplastic composite aircraft parts, terms like slitting, chopping, and spooling are no longer sufficient to categorize capabilities. Instead, think in terms of invention and innovation that highly skilled custom formatters can provide from the earliest stages of a component’s design process.

Following are six things to know about custom formatters’ growing role as an expert partner whose skills enable them to produce a custom solution for next-generation aircraft.

Conventional material formatting is the process that slits or chops and then packages a thermoplastic or other composite according to a manufacturer’s specifications for subsequent layup, molding, and heating or compression into a finished part. Slit tapes are packaged or wound on spools; chopped materials are packaged in containers. In addition to dedicated formatting businesses, some aircraft and component manufacturers and materials suppliers perform conventional formatting.

While the conventional formatting process sounds relatively simple, it involves high-level engineering skills, a solid understanding of material characteristics, extreme quality control, and precision equipment capable of slitting or chopping material to 1/8" widths at tolerances at 0.005" or less.

Custom formatting is another matter altogether, and it is a capability that conventional manufacturers and converters do not possess.

Custom formatters combine traditional solutions with material formats designed for a product or process. It is an optimization approach that can convert materials in unique ways and often involves producing output materials unlike anything currently available. Custom formatters can also help enable production methods never used before to build a part. Many aerospace manufacturers value their partnerships with custom formatters because they can help them realize new, innovative methods that provide competitive advantages.

Custom formatters have extensive experience working side-by-side with aerospace engineering personnel. This, along with their deep knowledge of materials and processes, as well as research and development resources, make them ideal partners for aerospace manufacturers.

They can develop novel formatting processes designed from the ground up to satisfy a manufacturer’s previously unmet or new challenges. They can help an engineer realize a lofty dream about what aircraft manufacturing needs to be far in the future, all in ways that are faster and more cost effective and efficient, while saving manufacturers development time.

Custom formatters are experienced with technology readiness level (TRL), which is commonly used for aerospace technology developments. They can coordinate development with a manufacturer for a comprehensive and consistent methodology, and for planning that facilitates a new technology’s speed to market.

Change is a constant in the aerospace industry and cross-functional collaboration is key to successfully implementing new technologies. One example is Boeing’s collaboration in the development of its 777X wing, a process different from current methods of wing manufacturing. Keeping pace with such developments calls for vendor collaboration from concept of a new component through to final material output. Vendors need to be experienced at working through long development times and proficient in structured development methodology to realize innovations from R&D to production.

Ideally, custom formatters will work in unison with several parties involved in a new component’s production – material suppliers, equipment and component manufacturers, and design and manufacturing engineers. When it comes to selecting a custom formatter, early does it. If the custom formatter is brought into the process at a time when the manufacturer has already specified and ordered its production equipment, the window for optimizing the entire process and realizing benefits such as additional cost reductions and throughput improvements will already have passed.

Custom formatters are on the front line of innovation and often acquire new levels of expertise via their involvement in academics, associations, and joint projects with research centers.

Web Industries Inc. is a member of the Thermoplastics Composites Research Center (TPRC) in the Netherlands, a consortium of industrial and academic members active in the thermoplastics industry. Web Industries recently participated in a joint experiment with TPRC and group members to characterize the relationship between thermoplastic flake size, processing conditions, and performance.

The subject part was an access door panel manufactured from recycled carbon/thermoplastic processing scrap (C/PPS). The panel was designed and built by TPRC and Fokker Aerostructures; the recycled material was supplied by TenCate, and cut into flakes using a technology developed by Web Industries.

According to documents supplied by TPRC, the manufactured panel “demonstrates a number of interesting design features. These include molded stiffening ribs, thickness variations, and molded holes with bosses. The chopped C/PPS semi-preg allows for an increased design freedom, resulting in a lightweight component with a large degree of functional integration.”

A post-experiment comment from TPRC states, “The inherent recyclability of thermoplastic composites opens new avenues for intelligent green design.”

Involvement with research organizations such as TPRC in experiments like this one give custom formatters insight to cutting-edge design, materials, and manufacturing that exceeds conventional knowledge.

How much is a 10% improvement on throughput or a six-month reduction in qualification time worth to an aerospace component manufacturer?

This is a rhetorical question, because the answer will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. Still, it leads to a critical point: custom formatting can and should be expected to yield significant reductions in cost, time, and materials. Achieving this calls for flexibility on the custom formatter’s part because it will need to adapt, improvise, and follow the often-winding path of product development through to its final composition. Along this path, opportunities will emerge capable of yielding huge dividends in terms of shortened development time, reduced costs, and improved quality and efficiency.

Therefore, flexibility is a key competency that manufacturers should evaluate when scanning the market for custom-formatted materials.

So, too, is trust and risk management. Transparency is always a factor in joint enterprises. A custom formatter will need the experience and integrity to communicate directly on the challenges, pros, and cons of a project’s developmental path. All partners need to conform to their commitments. It is critical for a custom formatter to deliver on its promise consistently for years and even decades.

Bringing a conventional formatting function in-house, or deciding to keep it in-house, has definite pros and cons. One generally accepted advantage to vertically integrating is the process’ proximity to the manufacturer’s or material supplier’s production center.

Weighing against this are the resources that a manufacturer or materials supplier must apply to the process. Ultimately, it calls for a risk assessment: Can your business do a job that is not its core competency better and more efficiently than a business whose sole undertaking is devoted to that single task? Is it willing to sacrifice manufacturing and warehousing space, commit to the production scale, purchase material quantities, install laboratories for research and development, build refrigerated areas and clean rooms, all while mastering a process that requires high precision and years of accumulated knowledge to be successful?

And what of custom formatting? Risk assessment equations here would entail decades of experience, engineering skills finely tuned to a specific discipline, and a proven track record for delivering innovative formatting solutions to new and sometimes boundary-breaking product developments that only a custom formatter could reasonably be expected to deliver.

A final note: thermoplastics are gaining acceptance for a greater variety of aerospace parts, including large components such as wing boxes, stringers, wing skin, fuselage structures, and panels. As the components grow larger and thermoplastics are used more in the industry, the value of serious risk assessment for in-house formatting will increase exponentially.

About the author: Grand Hou is director of research and technology for advanced composites at Web Industries Inc. He can be reached at ghou@webindustries.com.

Using modern sheet hydroforming technology, Jinpao Precision Industry Co. and Triform partner to expand aerospace forming operations around the world.

Jinpao Precision Industry Co. Ltd., Samut Prakarn, Thailand, started in 1998 as a hard-tooling company with an aggressive expansion plan, but it quickly evolved into a leading job-shop in Southeast Asia, specializing in low-volume, high-mix aerospace part production. By 2005, the company moved its corporate headquarters in to a 777,757ft2 (72,256m2) facility near Bangkok and expanded operations to include sheet metal fabrication, stamping, CNC milling, finishing, precision machining, and engineering support services.

In 2008, the owners established a rigorous quality management system (QMS) and became AS9100 certified in early 2014. This accreditation solidified Jinpao’s future in aerospace part production on a global scale. They expect to extend their aerospace division to include a dedicated area specializing in unique manufacturing processes such as stretch forming and deep-draw sheet hydroforming.

“We would like to grow together with our aerospace customers utilizing our diversified capabilities and engineering expertise,” says Chung Kuo-Sung “Victor Chung,” managing director at Jinpao Precision Industry Co. Ltd. “We need machinery that can easily form complex shapes, and we need to cut costs for extensive tooling in order to be competitive in the aerospace market.”

Among the new machinery in Jinpao’s aerospace division is a Triform model 24-5BD fluid cell, sheet-hydroforming press manufactured by Beckwood Press Co., St. Louis, Missouri. With a 24" diameter forming area and 5,000psi of forming pressure in a 58" x 100" flush-floor design, Jinpao’s Triform press offers versatility without the need for special foundations.

“Originally, we were using conventional stamping machines to form sheet-metal parts,” Chung says. “These methods are prone to tooling marks, wrinkling, scratches, and other cosmetic defects. Because of these issues, we started looking for an alternative method of forming parts without the disadvantages of cold forming.”

Suitable for low-volume, high-mix part production, Jinpao’s Triform press has become a critical component in the company’s state-of-the-art forming facility.

“The Triform team is very supportive,” Chung says. “Their sales, application, and engineering teams are very helpful to a new-entry company in this industry. We ultimately chose Triform because of their total solution.”

Today, Triform machines are frequently used in the aerospace and defense industries where low volume, high-mix production is common. Job shops such as Jinpao as well as manufacturers in the automotive, medical, lighting, energy, and oil & gas industries are discovering competitive advantages in the sheet hydroforming process.

Sheet hydroforming presses typically fall into two categories: fluid cell and deep-draw (see diagram, right). During the fluid cell process, blank sheet material is placed on a single, unmated tool resting unsecured on the working surface. A pressurized diaphragm extends over the tool and blank, exerting equal pressure on every square inch of the part’s surface. Even application of pressure offers net shape part production – minimizing wrinkles, improving part definition, and reducing hand finishing.

Deep-draw sheet hydroforming is often used for applications requiring a controlled flow of material, such as drawn parts or those with the potential to wrinkle during formation. During the deep-draw process, a pressurized diaphragm holds a blank in place as the tool extends on a hydraulic punch cylinder. This draws the material into the diaphragm and allows it to flow as needed.

The diaphragm’s uniform pressure exertion is optimal for creating complex geometric shapes which are difficult using traditional forming methods. Parts that normally require multiple steps or expensive progressive dies can often be formed in a single cycle through sheet hydroforming.

The Triform line of sheet hydroforming equipment was developed in 2008 in response to market demand. Reliable sheet hydroforming equipment was extremely scarce, and prices reflected the lack of competition. Used equipment was often a half-century old and presented countless hazards.

“Cincinnati and Verson hydroform machines from the 1950s laid the groundwork for the evolution of Triform,” says Bob Blood, hydroforming veteran and Triform technical sales engineer. “We took the nearly 70-year-old process and infused modern technology to create machines that offer accurate and repeatable forming results.”

Before Triform, most sheet hydroforming control systems used levers and valves that had to be manually adjusted for each cycle. Skilled operators and secondary finishing were necessary, and part inconsistency and high scrap rates were frequent by-products.

“Using modern technology, we took sheet hydroforming from an artform to a science,” Blood recalls. Triform presses control diaphragm pressure to 1% of full scale and punch position to ±0.002". Up to 30 steps can be saved per cycle, and more than 10,000 unique recipes can be stored for later recall.

“With sheet hydroforming, we can form complex designs without the need for extensive tooling,” Chung says. “We were able to cut tooling cost in half because the diaphragm serves as the female die.”

Additionally, Triform tooling can be made from a variety of materials including steel, aluminum, 3D-printed substrates, poured epoxies, and even wood – expediting tool and part development and reducing research and development (R&D) costs. Non-mated tooling also allows for faster setup and change-over, particularly within the fluid cell process.

“Operation time is also reduced significantly because of its ability to form multiple parts in a single cycle,” Chung notes.

Jinpao is currently seeking process qualification and first article inspection (FAI) using the sheet hydroforming process to manufacture aluminum aerospace components. Upon receipt of the certifications, management intends to seek Tier 1 supplier status with Boeing and Airbus and expand production to include titanium, Inconel, and other high-strength alloys.

“Currently more than 20% of our annual sales revenue comes from the aerospace industry,” Chung explains. “With the help of Triform, we expect to significantly increase this amount during the next five years.”

About the author: Beckwood Press Co./Triform technical marketing manager Christie Williams can be reached at cwilliams@beckwoodpress.com.

PVD-coated round, diamond pins; Solid carbide end mills; Updated CNC; Drilling, gundrilling machine options; Piezo probing line; Swiss-style program; Atomizing spray nozzle; Edgecam 2017 R2 release; Sound calibrator.

Life-Ex PVD coating on round and diamond pins is so hard it cannot be measured on the Rockwell C scale. The thin film of vaporized solid metal supports production for manufacturers working with very abrasive or hard materials such as exotic alloys and carbon fiber.

Life-Ex provides a uniform deposit and is available on three sizes of inch or metric pins. Locating pins have a chamfered tip for part loading and a shoulder to resist downward forces. One round pin and one diamond pin are often used together to locate two machined holes in a workpiece or to align two pieces of a fixture.

Jabro-HFM JHF181 end mills with HXT coating offer 30% more tool life than comparable solid-carbide end mills when processing ISO H materials, delivering advanced thermal protection and high wear resistance. Available in 2-, 4-, or 5-flute options with cutting diameters from 0.0787" (2mm) to 0.6299" (16mm) and lengths ranging from 2xD to 7xD, through-tool coolant capability is available for diameters from 0.2362" (6mm) to 0.4724" (12mm.)

Jabro-Solid2 JS564 and JS565 end mills feature stable tapered cores and polished NXT coatings, for 20% longer tool life than earlier versions. The end mills offer high radial engagement while maintaining high feeds and speeds for optimized roughing passes. Positive frontal teeth geometries enable axial and helical interpolation operations. Optimized chip splitter options create small chips when using long cutting lengths, for consistent chip evacuation.

JS564 and JS565 are available in 4- and 5-flute designs in a range of cutting diameters and lengths. JS565 is also available without chip splitters. Cylindrical shank diameters are available from 0.1181" (3mm) to 0.7874" (20mm), and Weldon shank diameters are available from 0.2362" (6mm) to 0.7874" (20mm.)

The Jabro-HFM JHF181 is for high-feed milling strategies in hardened steels and nickel-based alloys, while the Jabro-Solid2 JS564 and JS565 are optimized for roughing strategies in materials such as steels, stainless steels, and titanium alloys.

The 8060 CNC processor combines a slim LCD color monitor with an ergonomic IP65-rated keyboard. Standard Ethernet communication allows the 8060 to be set up as another node within the computer network. The 8060 can execute a program residing on another PC through the Ethernet port. A standard USB port enables program uploading/downloading.

Interactive icon-based pages (IIP) simplifies conversational programming by allowing the operator to choose the operation based on an associated icon key. The operator enters data from the blueprint, so prior CNC programming isn’t required.

Adaptive real-time feed & speed control (ARFS) – where the CNC analyzes the machining conditions such as spindle load, servo power, and tool tip temperature – adapts the axis feed rate and spindle speed for maximum productivity.

The Fagor 8060 controls up to six axes and three separate spindles with two execution channels. It includes auto-tuning system setup capability and kinematics management. Solid graphics is standard with an option for HD graphics.

The DeHoff BTA/STS 2084 is designed for drilling on-center holes, such as when manufacturing driveshafts for helicopter tail rotors, where the shaft begins as a solid piece of high-strength alloy steel, and a center hole is drilled in a single pass. The result is a significant weight reduction for the finished drive shaft.

With a 2" (50.8mm) diameter drilling capacity and an 84" (2,134.0mm) drilling depth. The BTA/STS 2084 has a single spindle with a 20hp motor and a 4-speed gearbox that delivers twice the torque of a standard DeHoff model. The machine can also be offered with slide travels of 36" (914mm), 60" (1,524mm), or 120" (3,048mm).

The Eldorado KM75-48 3-axis gundrilling machine comes with updated Beckhoff controls with G-Code programming for enhanced flexibility. Complex gundrilling operations can be performed with a single fixturing setup.

The KM75-48 features a knee fixture table to provide 3-axis CNC gundrilling capability. Drill capacity is 0.078" to 0.750" (1.98mm to 19.10mm). Drill slide travel in the Z-axis is 48" (1,219mm), with table travel of 24" (610mm) in the X-axis and 12" (305mm) in the Y-axis.

Mida Diamond touch probes feature piezo-electric technology for high accuracy, 5-axis machining centers and milling machines. Probes, available in optical or radio transmission styles, provide measurement performance on 3D surfaces with repeatability within 0.25µm.

The probes achieve part positioning, workpiece orientation, and origin identification as well as part measurement through automatic detection of machine axis position. Using on a special filter, probes can distinguish false-triggering events from actual touch events.

Operating with a radio or optical receiver, the probes offer a wide operating field for large machines where line-of-sight between probe and receiver is not possible, so complex surfaces and deep cavity parts can be inspected. Measurements may be performed at depths as great as 1m due to the modular structure and probe extensions.

A Swiss-style program of cutting tools, holders, inserts, and through-coolant systems for Swiss CNC auto lathes has expanded to cover grooving, turning, milling, and drilling operations.

Holders and inserts feature a modular grooving system with a basic tool holder that turns into different tool variants by changing the support blade and clamp.

Typically, Swiss-style lathes have smaller machining requirements and use bar sizes of no larger than 1-1/4" diameter. For Arno’s SA Swiss-style program, insert widths start at 0.059" (1.5mm). Shank sizes range from 3/8" (8mm) to 3/4" (20mm). Through coolant tooling is included with starting from 0.079" (2mm).

The Arno Swiss program applies to the SA line with its HSA-U holder range. With most holders, the clamping screw is on the top of the unit but the HSA-U features a clamp and screw that mounts on the bottom of the holders for handling and clamping in the tighter spacing and machining requirements of Swiss-style auto lathes. The SA range also includes the standard HSA monoblock holder with the clamp on top.

The 1/4 NPT No Drip internal mix 360° hollow circular pattern spray nozzle atomizes fluid and sprays from the nozzle in all directions, to providing a smooth, even coating. Effective for operations where mist across a broad area is needed, such as dust suppression, humidification, and cooling, the nozzles combine liquid and compressed air inside of the air cap creating a fine mist and can be adjusted to meet application needs. The nozzles provide liquid flows from 1.6 gallons per hour (gph) to 14.7gph with liquids up to 300 centipoise.

Stainless steel constructed atomizing nozzles are available with 1/8 NPT, 1/4 NPT, and 1/2 NPT connections and in a variety of sizes and shapes.

Edgecam 2017 R2 software introduces a turning cycle including B-axis movements while machining on a turning center, allowing greater accessibility when machining complex profiles by dynamically positioning the insert. Nearly 20 new or enhanced items in the current release cover turning, milling, simulation, and wire EDM.

The 42AG Multifunction Sound Calibrator offers fast verification of microphones and sound-level meters.

Capable of calibration at 250Hz or 1kHz and at 94dB or 114dB, it is suited for calibration of sound level meters which normally are calibrated at 1kHz, and microphones which normally are calibrated at 250Hz. The 42AG can also calibrate at two sound-pressure levels. A normal level is 114dB, a sound pressure level suitable for microphones with medium sensitivity. The 94dB level makes it possible to calibrate high-sensitivity microphones without overload.

Designed to serve 1" and smaller microphones and sound level meters equipped with these microphones, the 1" microphones fit directly in the calibrator coupler, while 1/2", 1/4", and 1/8" microphones require adapters supplied with the calibrator.

Traditionally, new metallic alloys have had one metal constituent dominant with others making up a small fraction of the recipe. But a new study suggests a novel strategy could open the way for new classes of alloys with previously unseen combinations of properties.

C. Cem Tasan, the Thomas B. King Career Development Professor of Metallurgy in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Department of Materials Science and Engineering, says the approach challenges the conventional wisdom that improving the strength of a metal alloy is always a trade-off resulting in a loss of ductility – the property that allows a metal to deform without fracturing, for example when stamped into panels.

“When you start mixing metals in roughly equal amounts, you do not have good mechanical properties in most cases, due to the presence of brittle intermetallic phases,” Tasan explains. But in the last decade, there has been a renewed interest in exploring metal mixtures known as high-entropy alloys (HEAs). These compounds contain multiple metallic elements in roughly equal amounts, which could yield single-phase microstructures with improved mechanical strength and stability.

Most of the compounds studied have failed to produce significant improvements in their properties and still suffer from the strength-ductility trade-off, Tasan says. The focus of the previous work has been on evaluating the proposed single-phase stabilization concept in different alloy systems.

Aiming for stable single-phase microstructures, however, differs from the approach used in developing advanced steel alloys. Advanced steels often have phases that are stable and some that are metastable – having more than one stable configuration. Under stress, metastable phases can transform to stable configurations, improving their ability to resist fracture.

In addition to Tasan, the work was carried out by Zhiming Li, Konda Pradeep, Yun Deng, and Dierk Raabe at the Max-Planck Institute for Iron Research in Dusseldorf, Germany. The work was supported by the European Research Council.

Combining roughly equal portions of metallic elements can achieve a property called increased solid-solution hardening, Tasan says. “So we thought, why not combine the strength of this concept with the strengths of steels?”

Tasan and his colleagues report that in HEAs, metastability, rather than single-phase stability, produces the most promising new alloys. A new alloy designed with these principles, composed of iron, manganese, cobalt, and chromium, outperforms even the highest-performance, single-phase, high-entropy alloy and offers exceptionally high strength and ductility values.

“It’s like combining the best of two worlds: metastability, known from steels, and the solid-solution strengthening of HEAs,” Tasan says. But more important than the properties of this particular alloy is the underlying strategy used to produce it, which could open up new avenues for the design of alloys with novel properties. “We think this is just one example of the kind of alloys that could be produced.”

Aerospace Manufacturing and Design welcomes all aircraft enthusiasts to join the fun and NAME THAT PLANE! Each issue, a new aircraft will be featured. Given a photo and a clue box, readers are encouraged to guess what plane is being described and submit their answers to www.AerospaceManufacturingAndDesign.com/NameThatPlane.

I’ve been interested in aircraft as long as I can remember. I’m fortunate enough to live in Wisconsin, so I was able to attend the EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh fairly often growing up – that definitely played a huge role early on.

1325 Cnc Engraving Machine

I’m a huge fan of the all the older warbirds, but as a single favorite plane, I would have to go with the P-51. You can’t help but be fired up listening to the roar of a Rolls Royce Merlin engine!

To enter the contest, visit www.AerospaceManufacturingAndDesign.com/NameThatPlane and fill out the provided entry form. Only completed forms will qualify.

The entry deadline for this issue’s contest is October 6, 2017. Winners will be announced in the November/December 2017 issue.

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