Products and components made for the aerospace sector are often mission-critical, both precision and reliability are all vital to ensure success. This places an onus on metrology tools to work and work well, feeding back measurement results that are right first time, and right every time.
One significant trend in the aerospace sector is towards the use of composite materials, typically materials that are made up of fibers in a resin matrix, such as carbon- and glass-reinforced plastic. Such materials need to be strong, stiff, tough, and low density.
Composite materials can be molded into more intricate geometries than more traditional metals such as aluminum and steel, but they are more expensive than standards metals. These advanced materials can be difficult to work with and assemble which means that manufacturing costs are also higher. This is where metrology plays a central role in developing and supporting more cost-effective production methods.
Metrology-assisted manufacturing is vital in making the manufacturing process more cost effective, and metrology tools such as ZYGO’s 3D optical profilers and laser interferometers are increasingly important as enabling technologies in modern aerospace manufacturing.
In essence, metrology-assisted manufacturing means improved cost-efficiency and shorter production cycles, and this is especially important when using composites where accurate assembly that must adhere to extremely tight tolerance attainment is vital. Good metrology gives a better chance of production being right first time, and this negates extremely costly scrappage and reworking.
The use of optical components and assemblies are also burgeoning in aerospace applications. This is an area that ZYGO has invested for many years — supplying high precision reconnaissance windows, laser fusion amplifiers and targeting devices for the most demanding conditions.
For aerospace applications, the key is the delivery of consistently high quality and reliable optics that meet stringent requirements for compact packaging, environmental robustness, and high energy power durability. To meet these requirements, ultra-precise measurements are needed, and best-in-class metrology tools and expertise are vital.
Best-in-class metrology tools and expertise are also key for promoting and supporting innovation and research initiatives across key application areas. As the performance requirements of these optics tighten, manufacturers continue to put their trust in top-end metrology tools to ensure the high confidence they require to support cutting-edge-applications.
Metrology-assisted manufacturing and the need for metrology tools to measure to sub-micron tolerances in numerous optical applications means that in the aerospace sector metrology is now central to production process control, assembly, fully automated inspection, and troubleshooting. As such the role of metrology as a motivating technology driving innovation and efficiency is an increasingly key component to future success of the sector.