Sandvik Coromant Explores Metal cutting as a key Tool for the space race

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Sandvik-Coromant
Sandvik Coromant's Pursuit to Invest in Metal Cutting for Space Race is Grabbing the Attention

In the vast expanse of space exploration, with increasing commercial suborbital flights and advanced missions, the importance of advanced materials and precise machining cannot be emphasized enough. William Durow, Global Engineering Project Manager for space, defense, and aerospace at Sandvik Coromant, sheds light on the intricate considerations and challenges in metal cutting for outer space applications. The year 2023 witnessed a historic moment with 20 people simultaneously in orbit, setting a new record for human presence in space. From Virgin Galactic’s inaugural commercial suborbital spaceflight to SpaceX gearing up for its first commercial spacewalk, humanity is delving deeper into the cosmos. Apart from considering these radical ventures, it has also become of paramount importance to unravel the lesser-known aspects—the tools and technologies driving space exploration.

Recent milestones include the European Space Agency’s JUpiter ICy moons Explorer (JUICE) mission, SpaceX’s ambitious launch plans, and NASA’s OSIRIS-Rex returning to Earth in September 2023. Each project adds to our understanding of the galaxy, emphasizing the need for meticulous planning, rigorous simulation, and robust materials to withstand the extreme conditions of space.

Constructing anything destined for space requires a careful selection of materials capable of withstanding unparalleled challenges. Structurally, materials must endure high pressures and stresses during launch and in-flight. Spacecraft, subjected to intense heat during Earth’s re-entry, demand external materials that prevent burning up. Heat-resistant superalloys (HRSAs), designed to withstand extreme temperatures, and lightweight titanium are among the preferred materials.

william-durrow
William Durow, Global Engineering Project Manager for space, defense and aerospace, Sandvik Coromant

HRSAs, while resilient in harsh conditions, pose machining challenges due to their high stresses. Titanium, known for its weight reduction benefits, presents difficulties in machining, demanding sharp and wear-resistant cutting tools. The delicate balance between material strength and machinability is crucial for success in space component manufacturing.

Machining these advanced materials requires specialized tools and techniques. Carbide remains a predominant choice, complemented by ceramic, cubic boron nitride (CBN), and polycrystalline diamond (PCD) for specific applications. Tool coatings and geometry play a vital role, with a preference for sharp geometries and thin, tough coatings.

HRSAs, with poor machinability, demand lower cutting speeds to prevent heat build-up. High-pressure coolant proves essential to dissipate excess heat during machining. Sandvik Coromant recommends high feed side milling, a technique optimizing cutting speeds and feed rates while minimizing heat and radial forces.

The challenges of space exploration extend beyond known materials, prompting constant innovation. Organizations often develop proprietary material blends to gain a competitive edge. Sandvik Coromant, with global expertise in space exploration, collaborates with customers to provide machining solutions. Secure testing sites, tool selection consultations, and machining methodology advice contribute to successful outcomes.

In the pursuit of space exploration, precision in manufacturing is paramount. Even the slightest deviation in quality can jeopardize a mission. Achieving success among the stars requires a delicate balance between tough materials and the machining challenges they present. Access to the right machining knowledge and robust tools is the key to ensuring the next giant leap in space exploration.

As a leading force in the engineering industry, Sandvik Coromant collaborates with customers and partners to lead toward a sustainable future. With over eight decades of expertise in metal-cutting and machining, the company transforms challenges into opportunities for innovation and growth. By prioritizing sustainability, efficiency, and collaboration, Sandvik Coromant envisions a future where innovation thrives.

The quest to explore the final frontier demands not only visionary missions but also the mastery of materials and machining that will propel humanity into the cosmos. As we continue to push the boundaries of space exploration, the partnership between technological innovation and precision engineering will undoubtedly shape the future of interstellar endeavors.

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