Aerospace Thermoforming

Aerospace Thermoforming

For years, Reliable Formed Plastics has consistently produced parts for Tier 1 Aerospace Suppliers and OEMs. With the ability to offer high grade, durable components, thermoforming offers a cost effective alternative to many historically metallic aerospace parts. High grade plastic resins can be leveraged to produce parts that notnly meet the durability requirements but are also a fraction of the cost and weight. These parts include but are not limited to a variety of covers, interior panels, bezels, and housings/cases, and transparencies(instrument windows, exterior lenses). We are capable of processing many of the high grade plastic resins required for these aerospace applications. With high quality and precision we can produce assembly and sub-assembly parts from materials such as ULTEM(PEI), Boltaron, Kydex, Polycarbonate(Lexan) / FR Polycarbonate, Nylon, Acrylic, and composite/fiber impregnated resins. From a quality standpoint, we are in the process of implementing AS9100 Rev. D.


Pictured to the left is a Lexan window for an instrument panel on a helicopter. Custom molds and trim fixtures were also planned and fabricated for our aerospace customer. The part was created using SolidWorks CAD software and manufactured with the help of Mastercam CAM software. A first article inspection (FAI) was produced from 9034 Lexan (polycarbonate) and sent to the client for approval. Once approved, vacuum thermoforming followed by 5-axis CNC routing were employed to create the instrument panel window.
The window, which was 15.25″ long, 13.67″ wide, .050″ high, and weighed only about 6.5 oz., was machined to exacting tolerances of ±0.010″. Dimensional verification was used during the CNC process and visual quality control was applied during forming. When completed with a smooth clear finish, the parts were marked, packaged to Mil-Specs standards and shipped. We now manufacture at least 500 of these Lexan windows annually to Mil-Spec standards for delivery to the Southeastern U.S.


The red part to the right is an exhaust port made for helicopters. Due to the high temperature requirements for the application, the material used is ULTEM (PEI – Polyehterimide). ULTEM is a high grade plastic coveted for its ability to resist chemicals and high temperatures along with its stable electrical properties over a wide range of frequencies. ULTEM is often leveraged in medical devices and chemical instrumentation due to its solvent and flame resistance. There are also glass filled ULTEM options which we have examples of on the Composite Fabrication page.
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Reliable Formed Plastics also has the ability to form fiber woven/impregnated materials. These composite materials often serve as excellent Flame, Smoke, and Toxicity (FST) deterrents which are highly valued in many aerospace applications. The result in forming such materials is a very high grade, highly durable, yet extremely light weight product. Pictured to the left are Glass ULTEM and Carbon Fiber covers.
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