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Drilling in aerospace

Why drilling holes means a whole lot when manufacturing any aircraft that takes to the sky

4 минут на чтение Ноябрь 09, 2023

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Welcome to the gravity defining world of aircraft manufacturing. If you are reading this article at 10,000 meters up in the sky, bear in mind that an aircraft is full of drilled holes. Let us introduce you to why holes matter throughout the process of manufacturing an aircraft and the drilling process creating them.

A modern vehicle in the aerospace industry, albeit intended for commercial, business, governmental or space applications, is full of drilled holes. In a single aisle aluminum commercial aircraft, the number exceeds 3 million.

In aircraft manufacturing a hole is created in a material by means of drilling. Drilling applications occur throughout the aircraft manufacturing process. It ensures a seamless assembly of components and ultimately the structural integrity of the aircraft. But drilling a hole is complicated. There are many objectives and circumstances that determine what kind of hole is most appropriate for any given area of use and how it should be created.

So, let’s take off on a journey through the different stages of how an aircraft is manufactured and the decisive role holes and drilling play along the way!


Stage 1 - Design and Engineering

It all begins with the design and engineering process of the aircraft. Drilling plays an integral part in the creation of the precise holes in design models and prototypes needed for testing and evaluation. These are the holes that provide the foundation for a perfect alignment and component fitment of the future aircraft.


Stage 2 - Selecting the right materials

Next comes material preparation, where carefully selected aluminum or composite materials undergo cutting, shaping, and forming. Drilled holes are essential for attaching ribs, stringers, and other structural components to the wings and fuselage, ensuring strength and durability.

As the aircraft takes shape, components such as the landing gear, control surfaces, and engine mounts are manufactured individually. The drilling process creates holes that facilitate the seamless attachment of these components to the airframe. Every single drilled hole plays a vital role in the future aircraft's overall flight ability.


Stage 3 - Integration of sections

The integration of subassemblies involves the wings, fuselage, and tail sections. Through the precision of drilling, these sections align flawlessly, coming together in a tight and perfectly correct fit that form the backbone of the aircraft. The interconnectedness of these components is made possible thanks to the holes drilled, ensuring a cohesive structure.

In the final stage of the section integration, drilled holes play a crucial role when connecting and attaching the mounting systems, exterior panels, and array of subsystems. 


Stage 4 - Installation of systems

As the installation of the electrical, hydraulic, fuel, and avionics systems within the aircrafts frame continues, holes are drilled for cables, wires, and plumbing. These holes represent an important part of finalizing the intricate web of systems that will ensure the future aircrafts functionality and safety performance.


Stage 5 - Quality assurance and testing

With the aircraft and its systems assembled the aircraft undergoes rigorous quality assurance and testing inspections to meet stringent safety regulations and performance standards. During this process precision drilling may be needed for modifications, adjustments, or fine-tuning.

With the completion of the testing, the ready-to-go aircraft goes through the stage of external surface treatments, priming, and painting. Even at this point of the aircraft’s finalization, drilling may be involved when creating holes for fasteners or masking to ensure a precise and flawless finish.


Stage 6 - Final inspections and certifications

Finally, the aircraft undergoes the final inspections and certifications, solidifying its airworthiness. And yes, should any adjustments be necessary before delivering the aircraft to the customer, drilling is most likely going to be part of the solution.
 

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To get the whole story behind the art of drilling holes in the aerospace manufacturing industry check this pocket guide

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