Innovation in Large Aircraft Lipskin Manufacturing

Manufactured lipskin

Innovation in Large Aircraft Lipskin Manufacturing

Standex Engineering Technologies Group (ETG) takes pride in leveraging decades of experience to solve our customers’ challenges. We do this by providing new innovative metal formed solutions. Today, we are highlighting our lipskin manufacturing efforts.

Unlocking More Fuel Efficient Designs

The commercial aerospace industry is committed to reaching net zero carbon emissions by mid-century. With significant research initiatives, the industry is actively developing hydrogen, electric, hybrid and 100% sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) powered aircraft. In the meantime, airframers, nacelle and engine manufacturers are seeking nearer-term paths to reduce their carbon emissions and costs on new and in-development aircraft. One way they can do this is by increasing fuel efficiency through engine and nacelle design. Several aerospace leaders seek to use laminar flow surfaces. Using these will reduce nacelle drag and deliver the desired fuel efficiency gains.

Vertical lipskin aircraft engine component
Manufactured lipskin
Inner Lipskin

To further the research into this field, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of aerostructures sought to verify the viability of manufacturing a nacelle inlet lipskin for a large, long-range aircraft that could meet the tolerances needed for laminar flow. The aluminum alloy lipskin demonstrator they designed for this effort measured approximately 15 feet in diameter, nearly 4 feet on its extended outside leg and most importantly was a monolithic construction. This desired part presented a major manufacturing challenge but would offer a large step forward in the company’s knowledge base enabling new and noteworthy technical achievements.

Finding a True Manufacturing Partner

Through collaboration with ETG’s Spincraft business, the aerostructures manufacturer tackled this unique metal forming challenge. The firm recognized Spincraft’s earned pedigree of forming large metallic structures to precise contours and tolerances for leading space and aviation applications. Delivered out of ETG’s Spincraft MA facility in North Billerica, the project required innovative tooling and forming processes to fabricate the demonstrator successfully. Standex ETG engineers devised and developed a new patented process to produce the desired large monolithic lipskin envelope that could be machined to final shape.

Spincraft MA Team with lipskin

As with many experimental efforts, this project was not without challenges – particularly machining the innermost section of the lipskin with available assets and development time constraints. However, upon inspection, the majority of the part achieved required waviness requirements and any deviations were deemed resolvable.

The customer’s project was published in a research paper and presented at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics’ Scitech 2022 Forum. A link to the paper and presentation can be found here.

Your Advanced Metal Formed Solutions Provider

The Standex ETG team is proud of its achievement in delivering this innovative metal forming solution and is keen to continue working at the leading edge of aerospace manufacturing. Reach out to us with your most complex designs to learn how Standex ETG can support you.

NOx Recovery Project

Spincraft MA, National Grid and KGC Sheet Metal collaboration

Standex Operational Excellence

The Standex Operational Excellence (OpEx) Council was recently tasked by our CEO, David Dunbar, with developing a method to monitor Spincraft MA‘s carbon footprint and impact on climate change. This work was part of a larger initiative to measure emissions consistently across the global Standex network of businesses to provide input into our overall ESG rating. An ESG rating assesses a corporation’s long-term exposure to environmental, social and governance risks.

The OpEx Council identified four main categories for our environmental key performance indicators (KPIs):

  1. Climate Change – Decreasing carbon emissions and fossil fuel use by improving carbon-intensive practices (carbon footprint).
  2. Natural Resources – Conserving water and other natural resources while sourcing raw materials.
  3. Pollution & Waste – Reducing solid waste, packaging material, toxic emissions and water pollution.
  4. Environmental Opportunities – Implementing green building practices and improving energy efficiency.

NOx Recovery Project Signing Paperwork

The Spincraft MA team launched its green initiatives work earlier this month. One of the largest opportunities identified to reduce carbon emissions was the design, fabrication and installation of a NOx exhaust system on our large spin lathes, the center of our advanced metal-forming solutions. This initiative will enhance factory safety by improving the working environment for employees, as well as lowering the site’s annual usage of natural gas and electricity.

The anticipated annual savings of 139,502 kWh of electricity and 33,178 therms of natural gas driven by this project will result in the equivalency of removing 236.3 metric tons of CO2 from the atmosphere.

The above number is equivalent to greenhouse gas emissions from:

  • 50.9 gasoline-powered passenger vehicles driven for one year
  • 45.9 homes’ electricity use for one year
  • 28,707,665 smartphones charged

This project will include collaboration between Spincraft’s leadership including Ryan Farley, Frank Woods and Mike Arsenault; National Grid‘s Daniel Sancomb; and KGC Sheet Metal‘s Ryan Cole. We are excited to work with our partners to implement the NOx recovery system to begin saving energy, creating a safer work environment and reducing Spincraft’s carbon footprint!

Spincraft MA, National Grid and KGC Sheet Metal collaboration

Spincraft Completes Last Dome for Delta IV

97: First Delta IV Rocket Fuel Tank Dome Delivered
2021: Final Delta IV Rocket Fuel Tank Dome and the Spincraft Team
2021: Final Delta IV Dome and the Spincraft Team

October marked a momentous occasion for Standex Engineering Technologies Group (Standex ETG) as our Spincraft Massachusetts facility spun its final fuel tank dome in support of United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) Delta IV rocket program after almost 25 years of close partnership.

 

For more than 20 years, our Spincraft MA facility has supplied continuous production on domes for ULA’s Delta IV rockets. Before becoming a part of ULA’s product line in 2006, the Delta IV rocket was designed for the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program by Boeing’s Defense, Space and Security division. Delta IV has served a vital role in providing lift capabilities for high priority U.S. Space Force, National Reconnaissance Office and NASA payloads.

 

Spincraft’s capabilities significantly benefited the Delta IV program by increasing performance while reducing the part count and complexity of the overall vehicle. Previously, the technology initially utilized for making these domes was gore panels. Spincraft’s spinning technology and process expertise allowed Boeing to produce a 5-meter dome out of a single piece of aluminum, eliminating the need for welds, reducing many hours of costly assembly time and reducing the overall weight of the part.

 

97: First Delta IV Rocket Fuel Tank Dome Delivered
1997: First Delta IV Dome Delivered

Spincraft successfully delivered the first Delta IV dome to Boeing in 1997. The first launch occurred in November of 2002. Since then, our team has continued to support ULA’s mission by supplying a total of 415 domes. These domes were an integral part of 41 Delta IV launches to date, including vital military, communications and weather satellites; the Orion Exploration Flight Test; and Parker Space Probe. The last Delta IV flight is scheduled to launch in 2024. 

 

As Delta IV production phases out, Spincraft has already pivoted to supporting early production volumes of Vulcan Centaur, ULA’s next-generation launch vehicle designed for higher performance and greater affordability slated for inaugural flight in 2022.

 

Over the last quarter-century, Spincraft has grown to become one of the most critical solutions suppliers to the space launch vehicle and space exploration markets. Our leading-edge forming processes and capabilities have made us a globally trusted partner for leading public and private companies, providing unsurpassed service and performance. 

Blue Origin: Proud Supplier 

Team Spincraft holding the Blue Origin Proud Supplier Flag

On September 15th, employees of Blue Origin made a site visit to Spincraft’s Massachusetts facility to recognize the team’s successful contributions to New Shepard and the program’s first human flight.

During their visit, Blue Origin shared video footage from their historic July 20 launch — a milestone moment for the future of spaceflight, the Blue Origin team and their first astronaut crew. The first private citizen passenger crew onboard consisted of Jeff Bezos, Mark Bezos, Wally Funk and Oliver Daemen.

Additional milestones include:

  • Jeff and Mark Bezos: the first siblings to go to space together.
  • Wally Funk: the oldest person to fly in space (age 82).
  • Oliver Daemen: the youngest person to travel to space (age 18) and the first person to purchase a ticket to space commercially.
  • New Shepard: the first commercial vehicle to fly paying customers to and from space.

The Blue Origin team expressed their gratitude for the fuel tank domes that Spincraft provided to make New Shepard’s mission triumphant. Providing these precisely manufactured parts helped ensure confidence among the first human flight travelers as they set foot onboard the rocket to make history. Blue Origin presented Spincraft with a banner to proudly convey our status as a Blue Origin supplier.

Spincraft and Standex Engineering Technologies Group are honored to have collaborated on and delivered yet another successful space systems solution to our customer, and to have been a key manufacturing partner to crewed space flight for more than three decades.

Team Spincraft holding the Blue Origin Proud Supplier Flag

Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner Capsule: Spincraft-supplied bulkhead domes

Boeing and NASA continue their drive to send US Astronauts to space. Fox News toured Florida’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral to see firsthand the impressive CST-100 Starliner Capsule. Link to Fox release: Fox Business

Boeing is planning a September 2019 launch of an empty capsule, with a crewed launch targeted by the end of 2019. This will be first mission launching Astronauts to the International Space Station from US soil since the end of the Space Shuttle program in 2011
The crew capsule structure (forward and aft bulkhead domes) are manufactured by Spincraft’s North Billerica MA facility. The capsule will launch on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas IV rocket. Spincraft supplies domes to several ULA Space programs; each Atlas IV uses 4 fuel tank domes also manufactured in the MA plant.