The Need for Heat Treating in the Aerospace Industry: Part 2

Wright Brothers

The aerospace industry has come a long way since the Wright brothers took to the sky in the first heavier-than-air flight in 1903. Today’s aircrafts can fly faster and farther than ever before, largely due to improvements in technology and the materials used to design modern aircrafts, but one thing remains the same – the use of aluminum.

The engine block in the Wright brother’s airplane was cast from a hard aluminum alloy and aluminum is still widely used in the manufacture of aircrafts today. In fact, the Aluminum Association states that the airframe of a typical modern commercial transport plane is 80 percent aluminum by weight. Space vehicles and structures of all sorts have used aluminum, including the Apollo spacecraft, Skylab, space shuttles and the International Space Station.

For decades, aluminum has remained attractive for use in aerospace because it is cost effective and lightweight. It resists corrosion, so a coating of paint, which can add weight to aerospace structures, is not necessary. Pure aluminum is too soft for most applications in the aerospace industry, but aluminum alloys provide mechanical stability, dampening, thermal management and reduced weight. After heat treatment aluminum alloys achieves fairly high-strength levels. Aluminum is also one of easiest high-performance metals to fabricate, which can lower production costs.

Aluminum Heat Treatment for the Aerospace Industry

Aluminum alloys respond to heat treatment favorably. This is particularly true for aluminum alloys containing copper, zinc or a blend of magnesium and silicon. Similar to the benefits of heat treating steel, heat treatment of aluminum increases its strength and hardness.

Typical aluminum heat treatments include annealing, homogenizing, solution heat treatment, and aging. Annealing involves heating the aluminum to a predetermined temperature then allowing it to cool slowly, which removes internal stresses and toughens the metal. Homogenizing reduces the chemical separation of the aluminum from its alloys.

Solution heat treatment of aluminum dissolves the elements responsible for age hardening, which makes the metal part difficult to work with over time. It involves heating an aluminum alloy to a suitable temperature then holding the piece at that temperature long enough for the alloy to become a liquid, followed by rapid cooling to hold the alloys in place within the aluminum.

Newly cast and forged metals naturally change and settle at room temperature. Aluminum aging utilizes heat to speed up these changes. The process ensures high quality and accuracy in close tolerance specifications. Aluminum aging helps aerospace manufacturers make machine-ready parts available to industry distributors and machinists more quickly.

Heat Treat Furnaces for the Aerospace Industry

Heat treat furnaces for the aerospace industry need to be designed to meet demanding specifications and Lindberg/MPH’s experienced team works side by side with customers to meet these requirements.  The aerospace industrial furnace options offered by Lindberg/MPH include a variety of configurations and atmospheres which allow customers to custom design a furnace to best meet their application. For more information on heat treat furnaces for the aerospace industry visit www.lindbergmph.com or email lindbergmph@lindbergmph.com. Be sure to follow Lindberg/MPH on both Facebook and LinkedIn for more information like the above along with company and product updates!