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Stainless steel wire in aerospace applications

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aerospace app 370 x 185

It is no surprise that Stainless Steel, a modern material with an attractive combination of mechanical and corrosion resistance properties, would indeed find many usages in Aeronautics/Aerospace domains.

Stainless steel in wire form is understandably on the forefront of these usages, in view of the weight savings considerations, in spite of the increasing competition from the more expensive Titanium alloys. Thus stainless steel wire, wire rope and wire mesh are found in many critical parts of aircrafts and primarily in the areas of fasteners (via cold heading) and aircraft cables, as follows:

  • Aerospace fasteners: fasteners is a generic wording for a wide range of parts used to link together several components together such as stringers, flanges, skins, ribs, stiffeners in the aircraft airframe and the engine mostly. Such fasteners are cold headed from wire rod or drawn wire into screws, bolts, washers, nuts and rivets. In view of the stringency of the applications, the wire rod or wire is frequently “shaved” to minimize the occurrence of surface cracks. Though regular grades such as 302HQ and 316L are used, specific grades are prevalent in Aerospace, primarily A286 – grade 660 / ASTM A453. This high end austenitic Ni/25-Cr/15 is age hardenable and combines good corrosion resistance with excellent creep resistance up to 700°C. It is therefore widely used, particularly for jet engine components. Another set of precipitation hardening grades 13-8Mo and 15-7Mo, have found a large use as stems of blind rivets (Allfast technology).
  • Aircraft cables: aircraft cables are obviously of primary importance to safely provide the essential functions of controls in aircrafts for wing flaps, landing gear, as well as adjustable head-back on passenger seats, etc… Note also other applications such as helicopter hoists for cargo loads or rescue .These cables are made of wire ropes stranded from 304 and preferably 316 wires.
  • Miscellaneous applications: a specific application of particular relevance to safety of aircraft assemblies is the “safety lock wire”. This wire is a physical locking device which holds nuts, bolts or other fasteners in place to counteract forces due to vibrations. Safety lock wire is often an annealed 316 stainless wire, size ranging from 0.5 to 1mm packed in small canisters. Also more traditional uses of stainless wires: springs for switches, flexible metal hoses, emphasizing the large use of stainless wire in Aerospace applications.

Contributed by Philippe Maitrepierre – Doctor of Science (PhD) in Materials

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