Metal finishing plays a crucial role in the aerospace industry, where components must meet strict standards for performance, durability, and safety. The primary objectives of metal finishing in aerospace are corrosion resistance, wear resistance, and improved aesthetics. Here are some common metal finishing processes used in the aerospace industry:

  1. Anodizing:

    • Purpose: Anodizing is often used to increase corrosion resistance and improve the adhesion of paint and other coatings.
    • Process: The metal (usually aluminum) is immersed in an electrolyte bath and subjected to an electric current. This forms a protective oxide layer on the surface.
  2. Plating:

    • Purpose: Plating is employed to enhance corrosion resistance, reduce friction, and improve conductivity.
    • Processes: Various plating processes are used, such as electroless nickel plating, chrome plating, and cadmium plating. Electroless nickel is commonly used for its wear resistance and corrosion protection.
  3. Passivation:

    • Purpose: Passivation removes free iron from the surface of stainless steel, improving corrosion resistance.
    • Process: Typically, a citric or nitric acid solution is applied to the metal surface to remove impurities and create a passive oxide layer.
  4. Chemical Conversion Coating:

    • Purpose: Chemical conversion coatings, such as chromate conversion coating, are used to protect metals like aluminum from corrosion.
    • Process: The metal is treated with a chemical solution that reacts with the surface, forming a protective coating.
  5. Shot Peening:

    • Purpose: Shot peening is used to enhance fatigue resistance by inducing compressive stress on the surface.
    • Process: Small metal shots are shot at high velocity onto the surface, creating a controlled plastic deformation that improves strength.
  6. Painting and Coating:

    • Purpose: Painting or coating is often used for aesthetic reasons, as well as to protect against corrosion and environmental damage.
    • Process: Various types of paints, primers, and coatings are applied to the surface, following proper preparation steps like cleaning and etching.
  7. Dry Film Lubrication:

    • Purpose: Dry film lubrication is applied to reduce friction and wear on moving parts.
    • Process: A thin layer of solid lubricant is deposited on the surface, providing lubrication without the need for a liquid lubricant.
  8. Abrasive Blasting:

    • Purpose: Abrasive blasting is used for cleaning and preparing surfaces for subsequent processes, such as painting or coating.
    • Process: Abrasive materials, like sand or grit, are propelled against the metal surface to remove contaminants and create a textured surface for better adhesion.

In the aerospace industry, it’s essential to adhere to stringent specifications and standards, such as those outlined by organizations like the National Aerospace and Defense Contractors Accreditation Program (NADCAP) and military specifications (MIL-SPEC). These processes help ensure the longevity, performance, and safety of aerospace components.

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