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    April 3, 2020

    Machining and Sheet Metal; Still King in Aerospace & Defense Production

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    By Ben Carlson

    The aerospace industry has big plans for defense and space exploration and is continuing to promote long-term investment in the industry. Machining and sheet metal needs are still active in the sector, and Rapid Axis is at the forefront of development and technical support for their aerospace counterparts. Rapid Axis serves its aerospace and defense industry clients, both federal and civilian, by reducing development lead times and realizing production cost savings. 

    Aerospace continues to innovate and invest

    The growing use of lightweight materials and carefully engineered components are continually reducing weight and providing mechanical optimization of flight systems and components. As Rapid Axis grows with its clients, machining and sheet metal needs are being responded to and met. Rapid Axis’ global network of partners continues to innovate and produce newer and better flight system components. Benefits of Rapid Axis’ quick turnaround and exacting precision continue to support the global supply chain and are ready to assist manufacturers with identifying and supplying quality machining and components. 

    Flight Control Systems

    Manufacturers are focusing on reducing weight and employing state-of-the-art control systems in both commercial and defense aerospace applications, allowing for safe flight systems to be both lightweight and provide advanced functionality. Currently, most commercial aircraft utilize hydro-mechanical flight control systems, and these have been used as control systems for the safe operation of the vehicle during banking, rolling, and landing operations as standard commercial equipment. These hydro-mechanical flight control systems can be produced with Rapid Axis’ support and product knowledge to allow for cost savings through weight reduction, production costs, and provide quick prototype components made to order.

    The commercial and defense UAV market typically employs a fly-by-wire electronic control system, which allows for exact maneuverability and rapid response. These new systems are enticing to aerospace designers and manufacturers as a weight reduction tool for new commercial vehicles and provide reliable and safe flight by advances in unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) technology borrowed from recent iterations. Rapid Axis machining and sheet metal capabilities are well-suited to support the adoption of such new technologies. 

    Space Modules

    Space module machining and sheet metal continue to be a vital component of the Rapid Axis’ portfolio of available technologies. New advances in finite element analysis (FEA) tools are allowing engineers and producers of module delivery systems to rapidly increase payload capacity and deliver more sensitive electronics and machinery into orbit than ever before. As the tools and technology get better, engineers can reduce weight while still maintaining flight integrity. Space technology continues to grow in both the private commercial and defense sectors, with many new technologies on the horizon, such as investment in inter-planetary human and unmanned exploration, commercialization of space travel, and continued scientific endeavors.

    Satellite technology is advancing rapidly, with the deployment of assets requiring machining and production tolerances acceptable only to the highest degree. Rapid Axis tolerances can match most production and prototype requirements for milled and machined units. Consultation by Rapid Axis on best practices and tooling is available by calling and speaking with one of their technical sales representatives. 

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    Contact Rapid Axis Engineering Support

    High Temperature and Impact Needs

    The benefits of working with Rapid Axis provide knowledgeable support of CAD/CAM models and material science. Aviation looks to provide the most economical means of transporting people and goods. Impact resistance and temperature ranges of some 3D parts meet or exceed industry standards. Temperature resistances required by re-entry vehicles are driving vehicles to be utilizing new composite materials such as ceramic and stainless steel, such as in pressure vessel production.

    Current rocket and terrestrial aviation technology use every available ounce of weight savings while maintaining material integrity. Rapid Axis CNC and machining capability is providing defense clients with dependable and deployable assets in the field and the lab. 

    Machine Post Processing

    Materials utilized in aircraft and spacecraft are all typically post-processed to achieve operational deployment. Such technologies used by Rapid Axis allow production and development teams to receive a completed unit, minimizing the scope of work requirements for team leaders.

    Rapid Axis has capabilities to be a single point of contact for clients. This production capability eliminates production teams’ reliance on intermodal transportation of potentially sensitive technologies. Post-processing of aerospace metal components include:


    Anodizing is the process by which metals, typically aluminum, are electrochemically converted at surface levels to an anodic oxide finish. The oxide finish is an ordered structure with relative porosity to the metal, allowing for further refinement of post-processing such as painting, plating, coloring, or sealing. Metals used in anodizing treatments include not only aluminum but magnesium and titanium alloys. 


    Electrolytic plating of conductive surfaces offer enhanced aesthetic appeal as well as provide for corrosion resistance or inhibition. The mechanical properties of the metal substrate can be altered adjusted depending on asset requirements. Such uses include: 

               Paint adhesion improvement

               Conductivity alteration

               Infrared (IR) reflectivity adjustments

               Radiation shielding

               Soldering acceptance improvements 


    Machined parts may require the addition of imbedded materials such as electrical harnesses, modified 3D printed assemblies, electronic enclosures, and more. Rapid Axis CAD/CAM team of engineers work within mission requirements to deliver tightly-toleranced mechanically or chemically embedded components.


    Post-processed painting of machined and sheet metal units is often for aesthetic and corrosion resistance. Rapid Axis has dedicated painting facilities for machined parts. The painting procedure follows ASTM guidelines for surface preparation, cleanliness, and application. 

    Specific industrial components require functional coatings that perform to qualification standards set out by the SSPC and NACE. These are industry standards set forth to identify ideal conditions under which metals and functional coatings have the best chemical and mechanical bonding available for the intended use or operational situation. 

    As the aerospace industry works to overcome weight limitations through advanced study and modeling, Rapid Axis works to supply working prototypes that are functionally deployable to production and assembly partners. 

    Dynamic and innovative production capabilities with machining and sheet metal continue to support the growth of new design possibilities.  

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    Services offered by Rapid Axis


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    The outlook is healthy for rapid design and innovation in aerospace.

    Rapid Axis works with private and commercial aerospace clients to develop and produce rapid prototyping of high tolerance machined and sheet metal components. Working with the brightest minds in aerospace engineering, Rapid Axis hopes to help facilitate the continued development of new flight technology. In addition to its’ 3D printing services, which also actively assist development, Rapid Axis is supplying turn-key services to industrial and sensitive development projects. 

    Rapid Axis promotes growth and innovation through 3rd party support of engineering efforts for aerospace designers. Precision machining, milling, and post-processing quality controls set the standard for dependable deployment of sensitive assets.

    Rapid Axis addresses the complex requirements of production and design through rigorous quality controls and a bright outlook on the future of aerospace innovation.

    Contact Rapid Axis Sales and Development Team

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