Laser Drilling in the Aerospace Industry

The aerospace industry bears many similarities to the automotive industry in that it involves a whole host of processes, with design, development, production, manufacture, marketing, sales, and consumer use of the aircrafts being produced.

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While the final products are much more complicated than those that are manufactured in the automotive industry, they still consist of hundreds, if not thousands, of different parts and pieces, all of which must combine together to form a safe and reliable aircraft. Laser drilling offers the perfect solution to this.

The widespread use of the aerospace industry

The aerospace industry is another huge industry, with it containing everything from commercial airline planes to spacecraft to fighter jets used by the government for defence. It is one of the largest industries in the world, with the UK aerospace industry being the second biggest in the world.

Aerospace Defence Security, also known as ADS Group, alone pulled in revenues of £3.1bn in 2015, so its importance can’t be understated. It is an industry that is ever-growing, with companies always looking for new ways to innovate and connect the world even further. Such innovations include the latest release of the Airbus A380, also known as the ‘double-decker plane’, and Elon Musk’s SpaceX programme, which outlines a commitment to making space exploration more accessible.

Producing safe and reliable aerospace machines with laser drilling

UK government statistics show that the UK aerospace industry currently employs roughly 230,000 people from 3,000 different companies, so it’s clear that the aerospace industry is widespread and involves many different parts.

As with the automotive industry, all of these different people and parts need to work seamlessly together to ensure safe passage, whether in or out of the atmosphere! There are roughly 103,700 commercial flights every single day, and it’s important that each and every one arrives safely.

Laser drilling planes

Laser drilling is one process used in the aerospace industry to help keep planes in the air

Airplanes have to withstand incredible pressures at high altitudes and turbulence, so the manufacturing process needs to be absolutely exemplary. This is why laser drilling has become such a fundamental part of the aerospace industry.

Laser drilling offers a number of advantages over other more traditional methods of drilling, such as with using conventional twist drills. Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, it offers the user an extremely high level of control when it comes to beam intensity, duration, and heat, meaning it can adapted to work with the thousands of different aerospace parts, pieces, and materials. This allows holes to be drilled to fit the exact specifications required, leaving nothing to chance. Laser drilling is also a non-contact process, meaning that it won’t damage the materials or objects that it is working with in any way. Again, this is another huge advantage of laser drilling. It means that manufacturers can rest easy knowing that they are able to fulfil exact specifications while putting pieces up in the air that haven’t been compromised in any way.

What uses does laser drilling have in the aerospace industry?

Thanks to the adaptable nature of laser drilling, it is used in several different ways within the aerospace industry. One such use for laser drilling in the aerospace industry is for creating holes in the aircraft’s turbine engines which keep the machinery cool. Aircraft obviously operates at incredible heats, and these laser-drilled precision holes help to keep the aircraft operating at optimum temperature. Millions of holes have to be drilled into turbine engines, and no other machine can drill such accurate holes at such great speeds as a fiber laser drilling machine.

Another extremely beneficial use for laser drilling in the aerospace industry is to help reduce drag on the aircraft that is caused by boundary layer suction. To do this, laser drilling is used to drill small holes in the aircraft’s wings and tail. Again, as with the above point, many holes are needed and only laser drilling is able to complete this task with the level of efficiency and speed that is required.

Other aerospace parts where you will find laser drilling being utilised are the turbine blades, combustors, vanes, and afterburners. This is done at a variety of angles, diameters, and thickness, all to help achieve that cooling effect that has been mentioned above.

As this article points out, there aren’t many machines on the market that can match the hole-drilling requirements that the commercial and military aerospace industries require. Laser drilling machines go a long way in filling this shortage.

Interested to know what else laser drilling can do?

Laser drilling is not just used within the aerospace industry, and in fact finds uses across multiple industries, including the electronics, semi-conductor, and medical industries. If you want to know more about laser drilling or our Pulsed Fiber Laser and Continuous Wave Fiber Lasers, please get in contact with one of the team who would be more than happy to help.


Image credits: NASA-Imagery and Josh Sorenson


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