GKN Aerospace is a leading supplier for the aviation industry throughout the globe. With more than 60 facilities spread across three continents, GKN provides “complex, high-performance, high-value components and assemblies for aerostructures, engine products, landing gear and wiring systems” for clients all over the globe.
Each of these products requires an incredible degree of precision in their manufacture, and many require that their post-production finishes be flawless to maintain optimal working condition.
The Problem with Nonconforming Parts for Aerospace Applications
A part that doesn’t meet the exacting demands of the aerospace industry can be a hazard to safety of an airplane. An engine failure at 39,000 feet over the ocean or a landing gear busting during landing can be disastrous.
Aircraft require that every integral flight component meet strict quality conditions, or else the safety of all aboard is at risk.
Considering the need for absolute precision, it’s little wonder that aerospace companies such as GKN have very strict standards and tolerances for their products.
The challenges in this design were many. First, the wire baskets had to be able to hold up to 20 pounds of different blade parts simultaneously without allowing them to get scratched or damaged.
Second, the basket had to have room for shipping extra parts documents for when the blades would be delivered to the client.
Third, each basket had to be able to withstand a 20-minute wash process that used Ardrox 185 soap solution, plus ferric chloride, hydrochloric acid, and ammonia for another 20 minutes at 185 degrees Fahrenheit.
These requirements meant that the final basket design would have to be:
- Well-Ventilated. To prevent chemicals from sticking to the basket and to parts, each basket would need to be well-ventilated to allow easy drainage/air drying of parts.
- Compartmentalized. To keep parts from scratching one another during the wash and subsequent transit, compartments would have to be added to separate each part in the basket.
- Chemical Resistant. Soap, water, chloride, and acid can do significant damage to an under-protected container. To prevent excessive corrosion, each basket would have to be made of chemical-resistant materials.
How Marlin Quickly Engineered a Custom Blade Washing Basket
To make sure that the basket was tough enough to hold a full parts load, Marlin’s engineers used a slightly thicker gauge of wire with a support structure running along the length of the basket’s bottom to prevent wires getting bent out of shape when fully loaded.
To keep parts from impacting one another, a series of removable sheet metal dividers were added to the basket’s design to create a compartmentalized interior. To make sure that each compartment would have an optimal air flow, each section of sheet metal had three 6.5” tall by 0.5” wide slits cut into them.
Overcoming the chemical resistance challenge was problematic. The sheer variety of chemicals used in the wash process limited the material choices for the basket significantly.
However, Marlin’s engineers hit upon the solution of using a special polymer coating for the basket to keep the chemicals off of the frame. Halar was found to be resistant to each of the chemicals used in GKN’s wash process, so it was chosen as the right polymer coating for the job.
Once the basic design and material choices were nailed down, Marlin’s design engineers fed the basket’s specs into a virtual physics testing engine to verify that the basket would hold up to the wash process and subsequent transport without issue. Testing that would have taken weeks in the real world was completed in minutes, with the causes of any faults clearly tabulated for correction.
This allowed Marlin to create a finalized design in a couple of days, rather than having to wait for extensive tooling and testing for a prototype to be completed.
So, in just a couple of weeks, Marlin was able to take the basket from an initial design concept to providing GKN with a completed production run of baskets that met their demanding design tolerances.
When queried about the performance of the baskets, GKN reported that the “baskets are working well” for their intended purpose.