Inconel is an important material at the forefront of aerospace machining and machining for defense. It’s currently being used in the F-16 Fighting Falcon and the F-35 Lightning II, as well as by the United States Space Force and SpaceX.
A registered trademark of Special Metals, Inconel consists of more than 20 metal alloys that are extremely resistant to oxidation and high temperatures. It’s very hard but also lightweight. Inconel’s properties make it well-suited for use in extreme environments subject to high pressure and kinetic energy.
However, Inconel’s properties also make it a difficult metal to shape and machine. Inconel is an expensive material, and if not machined properly, its costs can be exorbitant. That’s why it’s vital to find an Inconel capable machine shop that has the right knowledge and equipment to handle the material.
At Heinz Engineering, we excel at Inconel machining. Our expert machinists have a collective 25+ years of experience working with this tricky but essential material. We’ve got the perfect combination of experience, equipment, and attitude to get the job done right.
We’ve streamlined our Inconel sourcing process by creating a curated list of distributors. We work with the best suppliers in the industry and have built good working relationships to negotiate better terms, gain a complete understanding of where our Inconel comes from, and how it’s processed. We ensure that all materials meet sourcing standards for AS9100 requirements.
While we already have tools dedicated for Inconel machining onsite, which reduces downtime, we also have the infrastructure to make adjustments when needed. If a tool breaks, we have an AutoCrib onsite. The AutoCrib is an industrial tooling vending machine, which allows us to keep the right Inconel tooling readily available as we need it.
Since Inconel is such a hard material, it can easily chew through tools if not machined properly.
Our engineers have the expertise to program designs that help prevent tool breakage, manage RPMs, and program the sequence of cuts most efficiently.
We have a fleet of workhorse machines that are particularly good for working with tough materials like Inconel. Our smart setups help reduce scrap, and our expert machinists are on hand during part machining to catch any issues before part damage occurs.
We’re also constantly refining our setups to make our Inconel machining and production faster and require less labor. Our current setup includes using indexers in 3 and 4-axis machines to consolidate operations into one machine.
We’re also moving away from usings vices to hold the parts, which limit the amount of parts we can machine per cycle, to fixtures. These fixtures are dedicated to individual projects and are built to hold specific parts for specific machines. An upfront investment is required, but for the right project, there’s a considerable increase in efficiency. When fixtures aren’t the right choice, we’re using the more versatile bar locks for Inconel setups.
As we improve our setups, we’re able to increase our capacity and move parts through the shop more quickly. That means faster turnaround times for our customers.
Quality and Certifications
At Heinz Engineering, our standard operating procedure involves close communication and collaboration between manufacturing and quality assurance.
When it comes to aerospace machining and machining for defense, there’s no room for error. Our quality program is in place to ensure we meet our customers’ expectations. We hold AS9100 and ISO9001 certifications, and all our processes and guidelines meet the standards required to design, develop or provide aviation, space and defense products and services.
Finding a shop with the right attitude is almost as important as their relevant experience and machining capabilities.
Many customers come to us because they’ve been no-quoted on Inconel projects (or have received overly inflated pricing). Other machine shops may be worried about tooling breakage, be unaccustomed to working with Inconel, or simply view Inconel parts as too hard to make.
At Heinz Engineering, we love working with Inconel. We want to make parts that matter. Inconel is a material at the forefront of aerospace machining and machining for defense, and we want to be part of that work.
Do you need an Inconel part made? Request a quote from us for your next project.