Laser Cutting in the Aerospace Industry

The aerospace industry is another industry in which the laser cutting process is extensively used. It’s extremely similar to the automotive industry in that it contains the design, development, production, manufacture, marketing and selling of thousands of different parts, processes and people involved.

The difference in this industry is that this is all done on a much larger scale and the resulting products need to withstand a great deal more pressure. With this in mind, the processes involved need to be even more precise and reliable, which is why laser cutting finds such widespread use.

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Some background information on the aerospace industry

The aerospace industry is an industry encompassing commercial aircraft, military defence and space exploration. The aircraft industry itself has seen a doubling in revenue over the last decade, the military and defence aircraft sector continues to grow, and space travel is seeing an increased focus with private projects such as SpaceX and Virgin Galactic. Not to mention NASA’s own expanding reach too.

As the aerospace industry has become increasingly popular, widespread and commercial, it has been looking for ways to economise and make the industry even more accessible to the wider world. Virgin Galactic is even taking deposits now for trips around space!

Part of the cost cutting measures comes in ways such as increasing aircraft size or removing free extras such as meals on board. Other cost cutting measures, however, look at ways of making the manufacturing process itself more efficient.

One of the most advantageous ways that this has been done is by widely introducing laser cutting throughout the industry.

Why is laser cutting used in the aerospace industry?

The laser cutting process, which cuts various materials into all types of shapes and sizes has a huge number of benefits that makes it a necessary part of the aerospace industry. With the industry itself looking for ways to cut costs, while maintaining safety and quality, laser cutting helps by:

  • Reducing material wastage thanks to high precision laser cutting
  • Reducing time wastage by being able to switch quickly between multiple tasks and applications
  • Having low maintenance costs and only requires cheap replacement parts where necessary
  • Can work with many different materials in the industry aside from metal

These factors have helped to provide a high level of cost cutting and savings to the aerospace industry. However, quality has remained the same, if not improved, throughout this process.

Laser cutting allows for a level of precision that was previously not thought possible; meaning parts and components are produced with a higher level of accuracy and, ultimately, safety. Further increasing safety, the laser cutting process is required to be completed within a tight light box, keeping hands and other loose pieces out of the way! Conventional methods, on the other hand, simply have a free blade running through the material that needs to be cut.

While conventional cutting methods are still highly effective and used in many industries, laser cutting provides a higher level of accuracy, safety and wastage savings, making it the go-to choice for intricate industries such as the aerospace industry.

How is laser cutting used in the aerospace industry?

Laser cutting, thanks to its widespread benefits, is used in many different ways within the aerospace industry:

The laser cutting of components

As with the automotive industry, the laser cutting of components into various sizes and shapes is also crucial for the aerospace industry. This industry usually uses high-strength aluminium alloys, but also requires a perfect finish and low heat-affect zone. While this was unachievable for many years, laser cutting is now the perfect solution for this.

An example of parts that will be laser cut, as well as laser drilled, in the aerospace industry are combustor liners and cans. With incredibly small parts and holes being worked with here, these processes are the only ones capable of achieving the necessary results.

You will often see laser cutting, laser drilling, and laser engraving working together.

Reducing labour costs

We looked above at how laser cutting is being used to reduce costs – another way this is done is by reducing the number of permanent staff needed by replacing them with a reliable manufacturing process instead.

Laser cutting helps us to get great photos such as this!

Laser cutting helps us to get great photos such as this!

Laser cutting; the right laser process for you?

Laser cutting, thanks to its ability to work with multiple materials in multiple ways, means that it finds uses in other industries such as the electronics and semi-conductor (6) industries, and also the medical sector.

With our top-of-the-range Continuous Wave Fiber Lasers and Pulsed Fiber Lasers, the lasers that we have on offer at SPI Lasers are more than capable of completing highly precise laser cuttings to a safe standard. If you want more information, please give us a call on +44 (0) 1489 779 696 or contact us here.

 

Image credits: NASA-Imagery and bingzhenzhen

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