Before every aircraft is delivered to the customer, it goes through a lengthy and rigorous process of design and analysis to testing and certification. From its extensive supply chain, one component that still stands out for being tedious and labor-intensive is the assembly process.
In assembly, many carbon fiber composite or aluminum alloy sheets are joined together to form the aircraft frame. And in this stage, one tool figures prominently: the air riveting hammer.
Most people are not aware of the amount of work that goes into every aircraft, usually boarding one with only the vaguest idea of how it was made possible.
In this article, we will discuss the various stages in aircraft production, the importance of the riveting hammer in aircraft assembly, and the best riveting tools available in the market today.
A commercial aircraft has over six million parts seamlessly put together and running like clockwork. It is the end result of many processes and operations, all working towards one common goal--safe and efficient air transport. It may vary slightly from one manufacturer to another, but this is generally how an aircraft is made:
Before a single component is produced, the aircraft first goes through the design process. In this stage, the blueprint of the aircraft is generated based on its purpose (commercial or cargo), which will dictate the requirements for it to be functional and cost-efficient. Every component of the assembly is then analyzed and tested for suitability and soundness.
Based on the initial blueprint, a simulated model is generated in a computer. The performance of this virtual aircraft is tested against actual flying conditions using highly-focused equations inputted in the simulator. These equations allow the computer to mimic real-world situations, which can gauge the airworthiness of the virtual aircraft.
In this stage, the components of the aircraft are either manufactured or purchased. Advanced milling and turning machines have enabled the mass-production of components with high accuracy, but with the sheer number of parts needed, even major manufacturers need to outsource some of them. There are smaller companies that specialize in these aircraft components and could supply the bigger companies regularly. Smaller parts, such as the fasteners, which account for around half of the total number of components, are also purchased.
The major parts of an aircraft are the fuselage, wings, and the horizontal tailplane. Each one consists of flat or linear sheets of carbon fiber composite or aluminum alloys joined together by driving rivets through their joints. As each major component is assembled, precision and accuracy are maintained using laser-guidance technology.
The aircraft's electrical and mechanical systems are later integrated. This includes the onboard flight control system, which is added and tested as well. All the other components, such as plumbing and the bathrooms, are also installed.
For the whole operation to be viable and cost-efficient, parts of the aircraft are usually preassembled in multiple facilities and later shipped for final assembly. The manufacture of a single aircraft can involve up to 15,000 different companies from 30 countries all over the globe. This can be a challenge logistically, requiring a high degree of coordination and planning.
Before mass production, the aircraft goes through a rigorous series of structural static tests, flight tests, and certification campaigns. Some of the methods used in this process are fatigue testing, operational performance assessment, and exposure to extreme conditions. All of these are designed to ensure the airworthiness of the aircraft.
Once certified, the aircraft is delivered to the customer airline. Before it is officially signed over, a team of experts from both the manufacturer and the customer performs a detailed check to confirm the aircraft's compliance with contractual standards. This process normally takes four to five days.
Calling the production of an aircraft complex would be an understatement. A vast amount of thought, resources, and effort are invested, and rightly so, especially with the stakes involved. Hundreds of people can fit in a single airplane, which means the same amount of lives are hanging in the balance every time it takes to the skies.
And the vessel that keeps them safe is held together by small fasteners, many in the form of rivets.
Rivets are the main type of fasteners used in the aircraft due to its many advantages in aerospace applications. For one, riveting, instead of welding, makes the production more viable. They are easier to execute, easier to inspect, and have a wider margin for error than welding aluminum or carbon fiber together. Another reason is that rivets are not prone to loosening due to vibrations and does not interfere with the aerodynamics of the aircraft.
Below are the latest in riveting tools:
RRH04 Riveting Hammer - This tool is designed to minimize vibration, which is a common concern among operators. Along with its easy and comfortable grip, long hours of riveting will no longer cause "white fingers" and other vibration-related injuries.
RRH06 Riveting Hammer - Its advanced vibration-dampening feature is only one of this tool's many advantages. It also has an adjustable power, which enables the operator to drive rivets of many sizes and materials for a wider range of applications.
RRH08 Riveting Hammer - The ergonomic features of this riveting hammer is groundbreaking. On top of its vibration dampening system, it has an adjustable handguard, the choice between feather trigger or push-button start, and a comfortable operator grip.
RRH10 Riveting Hammer - This riveting hammer is designed to boost productivity by minimizing the operator's exposure to vibrations, maximizing ease and comfort, and eliminating lost production hours due to work-related illnesses and injuries.
RRH12 Riveting Hammer - This is a heavy-duty riveting tool built for jobs with a high demand for power. It has the same vibration-dampening and ergonomic features consistent with the RRH riveting hammer series.
RRH14 Riveting Hammer - This riveting hammer, in combination with the RBB bucking bar, gives an efficient vibration dampening system that is unmatched in the tools industry. It also has adjustable power and can easily drive rivets of up to 13mm in diameter for a wider range of applications.
RRN11 Riveting Hammer - This tool is highly recommended for working in cramped spaces. It is the smallest riveting hammer on the market, but still packs a lot of power. It has a power adjustment knob and easy-to-operate trigger for better handling.
RRN18 Riveting Hammer - This riveting tool is slightly bigger than the previous model, but is still among the smallest available in the market today. Consistent with the RRN series tools, its compact design does not diminish the power that it can deliver. It is a high-performance riveting hammer with excellent accessibility.
RBB04 Bucking Bar - This bucking bar uses a spring as a vibration-dampening element, making air supply unnecessary for its operation. It is the perfect partner to the RRH series riveting tools, completing an unbeatable riveting system.
RBB10 Bucking Bar - This is the perfect counterpart for the RRH series riveting hammers. Together, they offer the safest and most effective riveting system for cramped and narrow spaces. The dollies of these bucking bars can be fitted with interchangeable configurations and come in small and large sizes.
Rivets hold the aircraft together under extreme conditions, protecting countless lives and livelihoods. The quality of each rivet is largely dependent on the tool used to apply it, and this must be chosen with care and diligence. Atlas Copco has a wide range of high-quality riveting tools, each one afforded the same amount of attention that aerospace manufacturers need and deserve.
Build stronger aircraft and even stronger business with the most reliable riveting hammer on the market today.
Contact us now to request a quote on ergonomic tools.
1. How is an Aircraft Built, Airbus.com, 2020
2. Akbiyik, Akin, Fasteners in the Aerospace Industry: Aerospace Fastener Applications, Part 1 Lecture Notes Academia
3. Editorial Team, How Airplanes Are Made – The Process From Design To Flight, Aircraft Compare
4. Soliman Ahmed, Sherif, Assembly Process in Aircraft Construction, ResearchGate, May 2017
5. Slutsken, Howard, Four million parts, 30 countries: How an Airbus A380 comes together, CNN electronic ed., December 28, 2018
6. Delivering to the customer, Airbus.com, 2020