- From the Beaches of Kitty Hawk to Heat Treating in Space -

From the Beaches of Kitty Hawk to Heat Treating in Space

Since the Wright brothers took their first flight at Kitty Hawk in 1903, aerospace has continued to push the boundaries of technology and the science of metallurgy to explore further into the universe.

Only 117 winters ago, the Wright brothers made the first controlled-powered airplane flights at Kill Devil Hills. After four flights in their Wright Flyer, the brothers walked back to Kitty Hawk, where they sent a telegram from the Weather Bureau office to their father informing him of their success. The brothers chose the area because its frequent winds and soft, sandy surface were suitable for their glider experiments, which they conducted over a three-year period prior to making powered flights. The Wright brothers would make parts in the evening and fly during the day, a routine they kept up until finally making their fist successful flight. So began the aerospace industry as we know it.

As this new industry emerged, metallurgy and heat treating continued their own progress, discovering new lighter and stronger alloys to replace the wood cable and linen that the Wright brothers used for their first flight. Today, this innovation uses powders for additive manufacturing and other exotic alloys, which combine different elements to gain a technological edge that will continue to evolve into a whole new set of capabilities and performance. The same goes for the cycle of innovation in aerospace, and our ability to travel faster and deeper into space in a more efficient and ecological way.

Heat treating of metal will continue to play a big role in the evolution of the aerospace industry. The task of developing new alloys and improving weight-to-strength ratios will always be a challenge for engineers to develop and resolve if we want to reach new planets and move life beyond our own. Since additive manufacturing is currently being done on the international space station, vacuum-furnace technology could eventually make its way elsewhere in the solar system. The need for readily available parts with the proper mechanical properties required in space will surely emerge in the very near future. Much like the Wright brothers on the beaches of Kitty Hawk—who may well have used a bicycle to take parts from their workshop to the beach—the need for parts in space will bring with it a whole new set of challenges and create new opportunities to push our industry’s technology further. Nitrex’s team of metallurgists, laboratories, heat-treating centres, and engineers of turnkey solutions will continue to develop new solutions needed for today and tomorrow.

Like in many other industries, digitalization and AI will play a significant role in a part’s lifecycle. Tracking part performance from cradle to grave is now a key requirement that we must be able to offer for any solution for manufacturing and heat treating.

The ability to generate and validate data from the original design requirements, follow-on transformation, and the integration of the operation (including heat treating in a 4.0 manufacturing environment) is the new reality of the manufacturing world. Over the past year, Nitrex has continued to develop the capabilities that make us unique in the industry, including the ability to develop software AI IT/Data, turnkey heat-treating solutions, and automation. The aerospace industry looks highly on suppliers like Nitrex, who can deliver this expertise and help meet their operation goals and increase production rates while controlling quality and reducing costs as well as their carbon footprint.

The team at Nitrex will continue to invest and improve its solutions for customers who want parts, service, and technology to meet the challenges of today here on earth—and tomorrow wherever we decide to go.

Michel Frison
Vice President Global Sales, Nitrex Turnkey Systems