MACHINING OF PARTS FOR SATELLITES
When talking about satellites, there are three critical requirements that come to mind: long service periods, extreme conditions, no malfunctions. These requirements mean that the machining process for satellite parts must be carried out with extreme precision and as specified in the plans. Each satellite is uniquely designed to operate at its own position and frequency. Because of this, each component must perform its function with unwavering precision. This applies from waveguides to deployment and positioning mechanisms (DAPM). Therefore, it is important that qualified manufacturers have access to the most sophisticated machinery on the market. Finally, it is also essential to apply the strictest quality controls while the parts are manufactured.
INTRODUCTION TO THE MACHINING OF PARTS FOR SATELLITES
We can say that machining plays a fundamental role in creating a successful space launch. From the inner workings to the design of the body, machining continues to help rockets work properly with precision. Something that often goes unnoticed is the fact that launch is only one part of space travel. Spacecraft must be able to withstand outer space for long periods of time, which means that machined parts must also be able to withstand the conditions.
Industrial CNC machining is used for spacecraft due to the precision and efficiency of parts made for space travel. CNC machines are computerized to achieve more precise machined parts. We know that space travel needs the most durable and functional spacecraft for astronauts to carry out long missions. This leads us to ask the following question:
FOR WHAT MAIN REASONS IS PARTS MACHINING USED FOR SATELLITES?
- Speed and overall production – The benefit of CNC machining is the ability to mass produce in a precise and efficient manner. Many businesses and companies depend on efficiency for their customers at a smaller level. When you have manual machines, you are decreasing efficiency.
- Precision – CNC machines reduce human errors. Employees are still needed for CNC machining because the machine is not automatic. There needs to be observation and skilled workers to operate the computerized machines, but the precision that CNC machines have is much more beneficial.
- Demand for durable parts – Materials used in the aerospace industry require durability and long-term performance. Any space launch is an incredible achievement, and indirectly a result of effectively machined parts from CNC machining capabilities.
WHAT PARTS OF SATELLITE ARE MANUFACTURED BY MACHINING?
At Indaero Grupo Emergy we have been providing individual space hardware to our clients from Andalusia for years. On the other hand, we serve small sub-assemblies including rivets, nut plates, and inserts. Thus, some of the components that are most commonly manufactured by machining for the space industry are:
- Satellite housings and chassis parts
- Valves and nozzles for launch vehicles
- Panels, supports and rails
- flanges and accessories
- Jigs, fixtures and complex tools
- Components for optical benches and solar panel substrates
- Spacecraft structural parts
- 5-axis CNC components for complex payload assemblies
- Hardware used for antenna reflectors and radiation panels
- Structural parts of telescopes and cameras
- Complex Satellite Waveguide Components / Waveguide Machining
- Elements for modular solar panels
- Complex launch vehicle components
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WHAT IS CNC MACHINING?
Machining is a flexible manufacturing process based on removing material from an elementary shaped part (usually a block or cylinder) until a desired shape is created. CNC machining (computer numerical control) is a machining process in which programmed computer software directs the movements of plant machinery and tools. This software can be used to automate a number of manufacturing techniques, such as milling, waterjet cutting, and laser cutting of materials. Instructions are entered into the CNC machine via a CAD file and transposed into a precise set of sequential instructions.
The CNC machine uses these programmed commands to work automatically without a physical operator. Manufacturers obtain several benefits through the application of CNC machining, such as reduced costs, improved speed, higher precision and increased levels of productivity. These benefits are mandatory when it comes to being competitive in the field of machining parts for satellites.
WHAT DIFFERENCES ARE THERE BETWEEN TURNING AND MILLING?
It is a question that many of our clients usually ask us. They say something like: “Help me understand what is turning and what is milling, because for me everything is mechanized.” CNC turning and milling are two types of precision machining, but what exactly is the difference when it comes to precision machining? The short answer is that:
- Turning turns the part against a cutting tool. It mainly uses round bars for component machining.
- Milling rotates the cutting tool against a fixed part. It mainly uses square or rectangular bars to produce components.
WHAT SIMILARITIES ARE THERE BETWEEN TURNING AND MILLING?
- Both turning and milling use a controlled process to remove unwanted material from the raw material: subtractive manufacturing.
- Both processes produce chips from waste material while the tools machine the required features.
- In addition, both processes use the latest in computer numerical control (CNC) technology.
- Like many types of CNC machining, turning and milling is suitable for metals such as aluminum, steel, brass, copper, and titanium, as well as a number of thermoplastics. Unsuitable materials are rubber and silicone (too soft) and ceramic (too hard).
- Finally, like most subtractive manufacturing techniques, turning and milling generate heat and often use cutting fluids to mitigate this problem.
WHAT IS TURNING?
On CNC lathes, a chuck (chuck mechanism) clamps a round bar of raw material. A spindle then rotates the plate (and bar) at a preset speed. The speed of this movement varies according to the machine, the material used and the characteristics of the component. A stationary cutting tool is then continuously pressed against the surface of the rotating (spinning) bar, “shaving off” the unwanted material. Various cutting tools, of different materials and shapes, are used on the bar to create the necessary features in the component.
WHAT OPTIONS DOES TURNING OFFER?
There are many types of CNC lathes, with various tooling, spindle, and outside diameter limitations. CNC lathes typically produce round shapes, although some hex-shaped bars can also be turned. Some CNC turning centers have a single spindle, allowing work to be done from only one side, while other turning centers have a main and secondary spindle. En esta configuración, una pieza puede ser parcialmente mecanizada en el husillo principal, trasladada al subhusillo y tener características adicionales añadidas en el otro extremo del componente. This allows a “complete” part to be taken out of the machine, without the need for additional equipment to machine all the features. Some CNC turning machines use “live” tools, which can stop the rotation to add additional features such as holes, slots, and small milled features. This technique allows for a greater variety of shapes, sizes and types of materials.
WHY IS TURNING USED AS A PROCESS FOR MACHINING PARTS FOR SATELLITES?
The production of turned parts is usually faster and more efficient than that of milled parts. They are also usually smaller than milled parts. Since they produce precision parts in a very competitive way, the use of this process in the machining of parts for satellites is very common.
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WHAT IS MILLING?
On CNC routers, a clamp (clamping mechanism) holds a block of raw material to the table. A spindle then rotates a tool called a milling cutter at a preset speed. The speed of this movement also varies according to the machine, the material used and the characteristics of the component. The cutting tool is then continuously pressed against the block surface, removing unwanted material. The axes that a milling machine has determine the type of work and the places in which it can be carried out on the piece.
WHAT OPTIONS DOES MILLING OFFER?
The CNC milling process uses horizontal or vertical CNC milling machines and rotary cutting tools with multiple teeth, such as milling cutters and drills. When the machine is ready, the operator launches the program through the machine interface and asks it to execute the milling operation. Unlike manual milling processes, in CNC milling the machine usually feeds the moving parts with the rotation of the cutting tool and not against it. Milling operations that follow this convention are known as up-milling processes, while operations to the contrary are known as conventional milling processes.
Milling is generally best suited as a secondary or finishing process to an already machined part, providing definition or producing part features such as holes, slots, and threads. However, the process is also used to shape a piece of raw material from start to finish. In both cases, the milling process gradually removes the material to give the piece the desired shape. First, the tool cuts small pieces – that is, chips – from the part to give it the approximate shape. The part is then put through the milling process with much higher precision to finish the part to its exact features and specifications.
WHY IS MILLING USED AS A PROCESS FOR MACHINING PARTS FOR SATELLITES?
Typically, a finished part requires several machining passes to achieve the desired precision and tolerances. For the most geometrically complex parts, multiple machine setups may be required to complete the manufacturing process. This is frequent when machining parts for satellites is carried out, given their geometric complexity and finishing requirements.