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THE USE OF METALS IN AIRCRAFT MANUFACTURE

Posted August 27th 2016

The metals used in the aircraft manufacturing industry include steel, aluminium and titanium with each possessing certain qualities that make them ideal for this use. Aircraft construction demands materials that are both durable and lightweight, as well as being able to withstand severe pressure at high altitudes, and exposure to the elements. An aircraft is built with a number of major components – such as fuselage, wings, undercarriage etc. – and different components can be made of different materials, depending on what the function of the component is and what characteristics are most important for it to be able to work correctly.

Aluminium

The Wright brothers’ first aeroplane, which first took off in 1903, had a 30 pound aluminium block in the engine. Since then, aluminium has become a highly popular material in the manufacture of aeroplanes due to a combination of low density and high strength properties making it ideal for mass-produced commercial aircraft. Aircraft manufacturers prefer to use high-strength aluminium alloys (primarily alloy 7075) to strengthen aluminium aircraft structures. Alloy 7075 has copper, magnesium and zinc added for extra strength. Aluminium typically comprises around 80 percent of an aircraft’s weight (unloaded) and because it is highly resistant to corrosion, it can be left unpainted. At high temperatures, however, aluminium can lose strength so it is not used on the skin surface of an aircraft.

Steel

Steel can be up to three times stronger than aluminium, although it is also heavier. It’s strength, hardness and resistance to heat make it ideal for use on the skin surface of the aircraft and in the landing gear and it typically comprises around 11-13 percent of the materials used in an aircraft. The durability of steel is its most important characteristic in aeroplane manufacture and although it is heavier than other materials like aluminium it is often used for hinges, cable and fasteners where its strength is key.

Titanium

Although expensive, titanium is commonly used in aircraft manufacture due to its excellent properties including high strength, high temperature resistance and high corrosion resistance. Titanium is commonly used in a variety of different parts on an aircraft both on the exterior and in the engine. It can be found in the wings and landing gear as well as the housing, fan blades and pumps within the engine. As titanium becomes more widely used the cost is expected to drop which would make it the metal of choice in the aerospace industry. Presently, the costs associated with titanium mean it is not feasible to use for widespread use throughout the aircraft.

Nickel Alloys

Nickel alloys are popular in aerospace engineering due to their ability to resist high temperatures and corrosion – they are structurally tough and have fantastic creep resistance properties. They are often used to make the turbines of aeroplane engines due to the immense heat this part of the engine is exposed to. Because nickel alloys retain their strength at elevated temperatures they are perfect for this function. In addition to this, you can find nickel alloys in the exhaust valves, thermostat rods, tanks and piping for liquefied gas storage.

 

aircraft manufacture

RECYCLABLE METALS

Posted August 17th 2016

Almost all metals can be recycled and over 400 million tonnes are recycled each year worldwide. Many metals can be melted down without compromise to their strength or durability, meaning they can be used again and again in manufacturing new products. Metal recycling is a £5.6 billion industry in the UK with both ferrous and non-ferrous metals being used to make secondary raw materials for the smelting of new metals.

Aluminium

Aluminium recycling has been taking place since the early 1900s, but during the 1960s, the increase in use of aluminium food and beverage cans, helped push the issue of recycling to the forefront of the public consciousness. The process of recycling aluminium is relatively straightforward and involves simply re-melting the metal – this is far cheaper than creating new aluminium through the electrolysis of aluminium oxide. Recycling aluminium also uses about 5 percent of the energy that would be required to create aluminium from bauxite. Common uses for recycled aluminium include aircraft, boats, automobiles, computers, wiring and cookware.

Steel

Steel is the most recycled material on the planet with an overall recycling rate of approximately 88 percent. The sources for scrap steel are numerous and include automobiles, steel containers, cans and construction materials. It is economically advantageous to recycle steel as it is cheaper to do this than it is to mine ore and produce new steel. As steel does not lose any of its physical properties when recycled the reduced cost and energy consumption of recycling make it a far better option. Approximately 2 out of 3 tonnes of new steel are produced from recyclying old steel, however, as demand for steel around the world continues to grow it is still necessary to continue making new steel as well as recycling.

Copper

In Europe, 41 percent of the demand for copper is met by recycling. Copper ore is a finite resource so it is very important to recycle copper and conserve the ore as much as possible. As with other metals, recycling copper uses far less energy than creating new copper, which in addition means valuable resources such as oil, gas or coal can be conserved too.

Precious Metals

Gold and silver, often referred to as ‘precious metals’, have been widely recycled for thousands of years in the jewellery industry. It is not uncommon for people to sell items made of gold or silver to be recycled when they are no longer wanted, or to have items of jewellery made into something completely different.

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HEALTHY METALS

Posted August 5th 2016

Whilst some metals can be dangerous to human health, such as lead, there are other metals which are considered beneficial, and in some cases essential, to a healthy lifestyle. We have listed some of the most common examples below – in most cases only a very small amount is required.

Zinc

The benefits of Zinc include correct functioning of the immune and digestive systems as well as a reduction in stress levels. Zinc is found in cells throughout the human body and helps our immune systems fight off bacteria and viruses. A zinc deficiency can impair cell growth and tissue repair. Natural sources include oysters, chickpeas, nuts and wholegrains.

Magnesium

Magnesium is great for ensuring we have strong bones and teeth, as well as increasing energy and relieving muscle aches and spasms. It helps to maintain the body’s normal muscle and nerve functions as well as regulating blood sugar levels and maintaining a normal blood pressure. It is an essential mineral for staying healthy and alongside zinc and calcium probably one of the most important. Vegetables are a great natural source, particularly dark, green, leafy ones.

Copper

A dietary deficiency of copper is rarely found with natural sources including, but not limited to, almonds, avocado, garlic, seafood and lentils. Its benefits include regulated heart rhythm, increased red blood cell formation and reduced cholesterol. People who have a copper deficiency may have low blood temperature, brittle bones, low resistance to infections and elevated cholesterol levels. It is also important for the proper functioning of the thyroid gland.

Manganese

Manganese is important for bone structure and helps to create essential enzymes for building bones. Good dietary sources include wholegrains, cereals, fruits and vegetables. A manganese deficiency does not really occur in humans, but in animals it has been linked to abnormalities in bone structure and cartilage as well as defects in glucose metabolism.

Iron

Iron is an important part of haemoglobin, accounting for around two thirds of iron in the human body. This is the substance that carries oxygen around the body through red blood cells and if you do not have enough iron then your body struggles to make enough of these cells. A lack of iron can result in fatigue, general weakness and various ailments. Good sources of iron include cereals, sprouts, broccoli, wholegrains and lentils.

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