From plan to product: State-of-the-art manufacturing technologies for aerospace parts 4 minutes spent reading

From plan to product: State-of-the-art manufacturing technologies for aerospace parts

Christopher Eberl
Christopher Eberl is editorially responsible for the topics on the blog as well as for the apprentice website. With his stories he provides deep insights into the diverse world of the voestalpine Group.

Innovative design principles open up the possibility of pushing the limits of design freedom. In order for production to support this constructive need for freedom, voestalpine uses state-of-the-art technologies that are suitable for the properties of the materials used and meet the demands of aerospace.

Compared to other industries, aerospace is extremely long-term oriented and has stringent safety standards. This means that innovative manufacturing technologies in the production of critical components have to overcome enormous hurdles. New methods have to undergo an extremely intensive and costly approval process before they are even considered for use.

"Only after a stable process produces compliant parts of the required quality will an OEM proceed with the approval process in coordination with the responsible aerospace authority. And before a manufacturing technology can be used for critical parts, non-critical parts have to be successfully produced in series. All of this can take more than a decade."
ZitatBernd O., Head of Innovation, Digitalization & New Parts at voestalpine BÖHLER Aerospace

Proven and innovative

When producing aerospace parts, it is absolutely necessary to precisely fulfill customer specifications. Perfect performance—on-time and on-quality—is the only way a company can set itself apart from its competitors and become a preferred manufacturer of new parts. The key to success is a high level of expertise in the development of new parts, so that parts can be produced in series quickly within a stable process. If you look at the production route at voestalpine BÖHLER Aerospace in Kapfenberg, for example, you will find not only tried-and-tested processes but also the most advanced technologies in almost every step of the manufacturing process.

  • In the state-of-the-art sawing center, bars of raw material are stored in the fully automated high-bay warehouse. When the bars are cut into smaller forged bars, the connected sawing machines ensure an optimized sawing process: the best possible cutting for the least possible waste and end losses.
  • On the innovative preforming line, a machine network consisting of two highly automated machines ensures ideal hot forming. The 1,500 ton hydraulic forging press allows rapid forging and the 6,000 ton hydraulic forging press enables fast preforming and prepressing.
  • The production process is also unique thanks to its two screw presses—among the largest in the world—that use dies to forge the material into the prepress contour and then press it into the desired shape. The rapid forming process and very short contact times minimize the cooling of the material surface. Not only does this have a favorable effect on the residual stress of the material, the aircraft part can also be forged as close as possible to the final contour.

Technology and emotion

To meet the requirements of the highly demanding aerospace segment, voestalpine combines its technological USPs in production with ESPs (Emotional Selling Propositions). “It is always about the trust between voestalpine and the customers, about having a good gut feeling when working together. In addition to providing highest product quality and delivery reliability, we achieve this through open, honest, and prompt communication, customer and solution orientation, and flexibility within the scope of possibilities,” says Bernd. This combination of USPs and ESPs forms the stable basis for successful long-term partnerships between voestalpine and its aerospace customers.

Foresight and depth

For voestalpine, the outlook for manufacturing technologies of the future is all about automation and digitalization. At voestalpine BÖHLER Aerospace, for example, the focus is on continually optimizing the sawing process for very tight tolerances and continually developing the premachining and finish machining processes. Other future technologies such as wire arc additive manufacturing—essentially 3D printing for large metal components—are also on the test bench. With ALP2 (Additive Layer Plasma Process), voestalpine BÖHLER Aerospace has already invested in the future in this area and is currently testing the process in greater depth for the discriminating aerospace industry.

One particular design philosophy that underlies all these highly innovative manufacturing technologies at voestalpine is lightweight construction. In the blog post “Higher, faster, lighter: aerospace and the pursuit of lightness”, you can read more about optimal lightweight construction, the buy-to-fly ratio, and concurrent engineering.

state-of-the-art technologies in aerospace

#voestalpineanbord—about the Group’s focus on aerospace

voestalpine has been an established supplier to the aerospace industry for around 100 years. The Group manufactures extremely complex, highly stressed, safety-critical components for renowned customers worldwide so that virtually every aircraft flies with a piece of voestalpine. After the severe turbulence during the Covid-19 pandemic, the company with its focus on aerospace is providing insights into the very special (aero)dynamics of this business area.

Christopher Eberl