There can be few industries in which there is more research into new materials than in aircraft construction. In manufacture, materials must be capable of withstanding high temperatures and pressures, but must also be as light as possible to minimise aircraft weight and hence fuel consumption. One result has been the widespread use of titanium and titanium alloys. This is a two-edged sword, since although their physical characteristics are a boon to the aircraft designer, it is really tough on manufacturing tools. Titanium has relatively poor heat conductivity, so machine tools quickly get very hot when cutting. In addition, titanium is reactive and can melt together with the tool materials tool to start a chemical reaction, causing abrasion, welded interfaces, smearing and rapid destruction of the cutting tool: a real stress test!
Of course, tools used in the manufacture of large aircraft are not the only materials that must perform to the limit. For example, that miracle of modern high-tech engineering the Airbus A380 depends upon the precise manufacture of more than 3.5 million components including many types of fasteners. A single Airbus commercial airliner has between 500,000 and 700,000 rivets and more than 150 km of electric cables – the distance between Bremen and Hamburg! The wings, cockpit installation and fuel tanks in a big jet require an enormous number of absolutely essential fasteners. There is not a single wheel, turbine or square inch of outer skin that can operate without fasteners; unspectacular in use, and made from a wide variety of materials. Big jets are assembled around numerous technical modules that depend absolutely on fixtures and fittings to do their job, and today this type of technology is an indispensible part of modern machinery. This is true not only of hightech aircraft manufacture, but also of regular industrial production and technical trades.
Visitors to the forthcoming International Hardware Fair Cologne will be able to study the latest trends in fittings and fixtures technology at first hand in Halls 1, 2 and 3, and in particular in Hall 5.