Exotic Metals Forming Division began in 1963 with the creation of titanium sheet metal flanges. Today, the organization continues to be a leader in the forming of specialty metals in the aerospace industry as an expert using titanium and nickel alloys. These high-strength metals are corrosion resistant at high temperatures, making them ideal for aerospace applications. Also, these materials’ characteristics make them difficult to form, requiring specialized infrastructure and innovative proprietary processes. Exotic continues to refine and develop ways to form these alloys using specialized manufacturing processes.
Exotic employs a cradle-to-grave engineering philosophy. Engineers take a project from concept to full-rate production and support throughout the product lifecycle. A project begins with the engineering team providing technical leadership in quoting, manufacturing design, process development, and tooling design. Engineers use the latest CAD and simulation software, including Siemens NX and ANSYS. They develop tooling processes and work with our in-house tool and die shop.
Customer focus and quality are key components of the cradle-to-grave engineering philosophy. Engineer teams work collaboratively in all stages of process development. With forward-thinking, a collaborative mindset, and advanced technology, the engineering teams create manufacturing processes and product design solutions that best match our customers' needs.
The following are examples of the manufacturing technology, equipment, tools, and the process followed to form, trim, and assemble parts today and how Exotic works to advance their technology for the future.
Manufacturing technology: forming
Exotic first used an axial load bulge in the forming process. Bulge forming seals raw material inside of a die cavity and is pressurized until the raw material takes the shape of the die cavity.
Hydroforming uses a pressurized bladder that pushes a flat piece of raw material into a contoured die cavity. The contoured punch is also used to force a flat piece of raw material into the pressurized bladder, forming it to the punch contour.
Exotic uses many other processes to turn raw material into a complete part. Raw material arrives as sheet stock, which may be rolled and welded into tubing using an automated longitudinal seam welder or cut into a dimension blank using a flat pattern laser or waterjet. To form successfully, Exotic has developed welding techniques to optimize the formability of welds.
Several unique forming processes are used at Exotic. One of those processes is superplastic forming. A piece of raw material and die are heated until the raw material is in a superplastic state. One side of the die is then pressurized using gas to force the raw material into the contour on the other half of the die.
Manufacturing technology: material trimming
The teams at Exotic have developed industry-leading capability and knowledge in the area of laser trimming. Primary trimming tools at Exotic are a suite of six-axis laser cutters. The lasers are capable of a high average power output, which allows for quick continuous cuts. These tools are used in trimming formed subassemblies and final processing of assemblies.
Manufacturing technology: assembly
A variety of welding processes are used at Exotic to join details to form complete assemblies. The following types of welding processes are used to create complex assemblies; tungsten inert gas (TIG) welding performed manually and automated, seam, laser, and plasma welding.
Manual riveting is used at Exotic alongside robotic-riveter machines to automatically drill, countersink fastener holes, load, and squeeze rivets for assembly with fasteners.
Development of technology at Exotic
The advanced technology and automation team at Exotic is dedicated to developing new technologies to improve manufacturing processes continuously. Examples include retrofitting manual-operated forming equipment with electronic controls; improving the accuracy of forming operations; installing a robotic parts mover to deliver material around facilities without human involvement; and incorporating additive manufacturing into the growing list of capabilities.
The Exotic engineering and manufacturing teams remain committed to pushing the boundaries of what's possible by developing new processes and technologies to maintain our position as the industry leader in sheet metal assembly fabrication. Exotic celebrates our past, enjoys the present, and looks forward to the future.
Article contributed by members of the Engineering Team at Exotic Metals Forming Division.