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CNC Milling of Aluminum Cover Produced Using Vacuum Fixturing for Aerospace Industry

At Solutions manufacturing, we provide custom CNC machining services to customers in a wide range of industries. The part shown here is an aluminum side cover that we produce for the aerospace industry. The cover is produced using 6mm 6061-T6 aluminum sheet, certified to AMS-4027 per our customer specifications. The blanks were purchased sheared to 10"x78" from an approved material supplier and subsequently cut to the appropriate length using our automated non-ferrous circular saw.

The manufacturing challenge here stems from the critical end use form, fit, and functionality requirement of this very thin and flexible finished component. When completed the part measures 0.080" total thickness at its borders while the interior of the part measures a mere 0.060" thick. By any standard, with overall dimensions of 9.380" in width and 13.500" in length, this is a very troublesome component to produce. Adding to its complexity, the part features a very small and delecate dovetail slot with a critical width and depth tolerance of ± 0.002".

The engineering staff here at Solutions Manufacturing was up to the challenge. Standard work holding practices wouldn’t work in this particular application so we had to turn to less traditional methods. We were able to successfully develop a very controlled manufacturing process for this very challenging part by employing our vast knowledge of Vacuum Fixture Technology. Utilizing our in-house designed and built specialty vacuum fixture, the processing of this part was broken down into two seemingly simple CNC milling operations.

In the first operation, the backside of the part was decked to a very stringent flatness specification. Next in this operation the outside contour of the part was meticulously machined per the specification of the part drawing. The key to insuring the dimensional integrity of the top side of the part is incumbent upon the development of an ultra-flat surface to hold on from the backside of the part. This is achieved by using a face mill with cutting geometries that exert proper cutting forces to work with the holding forces of the vacuum fixture being used. Our engineering staff has done their research in the development of proprietary methodology that allows Solutions Manufacturing to provide very flat, ultra-thin components for industry.

The next and final machining operation again employs a vacuum fixture to machine the entire top side of the part while installing all the through holes as well. Working from the ultra-flat surface produced in the previous operation all the steps, pockets and slots are installed to a very precise and accurate depth. These slot depths are critical to the end use performance of the component. Later, fitted with O-rings, the covers must be relied on to maintain the necessary seal as they are cycled through a very harsh and changing environment. After a very meticulous final deburring operation, the parts are cleaned and packaged for shipment to the customer. The entire process is performed with strict adherence to an in-depth quality plan that insures consistent conformity to product specifications.

This is an active project for which we produce approximately 1,500 covers per year with a lead time of 4 weeks per order. For additional information about this project or to discuss your upcoming machining project, contact us directly.

Highlights of Aluminum Cover Project utilizing Vacuum Fixtures

Product Description
Aluminum Cover
Capabilities Applied/Processes
  • Saw Cutting
  • CNC Milling

  • Deburring
  • Packaging/Shipping
Equipment Used to Manufacture Part
Kitamura Vertical Machining Center equipped with Vacmaster III Vacuum System
Work Holding
Vacuum Chuck
Overall Part Dimensions
Tightest Tolerances
Dovetail slot depth: ± 0.002";
Dovetail slot month width: ± 0.002"
Step depths : ± 0.002"
Material Used
6 mm 6061-T6 Aluminum Sheet per AMS-4027
Material Finish
Chemical Film and Paint Finish (all done in-house by customer)
In process testing/inspection performed
Dimensional and Visual Inspection
Industry for Use
100 pc. lot size
Delivery/Turnaround Time
4 weeks
Delivery Location
Chicago, Illinois
Standard Met
Customer Specifications, 2D CAD Drawing, DOD-STD-100C, HSC0001, PN02.01, PN02.02, QC13.01-03, HS14722, AMS4027
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