Mastering the Art of Aircraft Wheel and Brake Manufacturing

Mastering the Art of Aircraft Wheel and Brake Manufacturing

Aircraft wheels and brakes must perform critical functions under extreme duress. The aircraft braking process generates tremendous pressure and heat, which puts considerable strain on landing gear components.

Understanding these stressors during the landing gear design process is key to manufacturing airplane wheels and brakes that function as intended.

The Landing Gear Design Process

Effective landing gear design starts with a comprehensive understanding of the landing gear’s performance requirements and service environment. Manufacturers may ask a few questions to guide the landing gear design process, including:

  • How large and heavy is the aircraft?
  • Will the aircraft perform take-offs and landings primarily on well-maintained runways or unpredictable field sites?
  • How much heat will be generated by braking forces?

In some cases, a totally new landing gear assembly or component concept will call for a clean-sheet approach to the design process. However many manufacturers can use an existing landing gear design as a jumping-off point.

After the design stage, manufacturing will look slightly different for each component of the landing gear assembly.

Aircraft Wheels: The Manufacturing Process

Most aircraft wheels are two-part assemblies, called a split-wheel construction. The inboard and outboard wheel halves are designed differently, since the inboard wheel half drives the brake rotor. The two halves are bolted together, with a high-performance O-ring creating a tight seal.

Airplane wheels must be manufactured to withstand tremendous pressure and high heat from heavy braking. For this reason, the most common manufacturing methods for airplane wheels are casting and forging, since both result in incredibly strong wheels. Many aircraft wheels are made from aluminum alloy, but magnesium alloy is also a fairly common material choice. Once the wheel halves have been cast or forged, additional steps may be taken, such as:

  • Machining grooves or holes into the assembly
  • Heat treating
  • Finishing treatments, such as shot peening or anodizing

Brake Rotor: The Manufacturing Process

Manufacturing brake rotors for aircraft landing gear starts with designing and creating a mold, usually with a CNC mill or other machine. The aircraft brake rotor mold is filled with hot liquid iron and compacted to ensure durability. Once the rotor has been cast, a machinist may use precision milling techniques to create level surfaces and meet tight tolerances, and CNC drilling to make precise holes for heat to escape. The final steps of the aircraft brake rotor manufacturing process are polishing and finishing.

Brake Discs: The Manufacturing Process

Aircraft brake disc manufacturing begins with a steel, iron, or composite material plate. The basic shape of the brake disc, called a blank, is punched from the sheet. At this stage, two types of holes may be punched from the aircraft brake disc blank:

  • Process holes, for mounting the disc
  • Heat dissipation holes

The size and placement of these holes will differ depending on the design.

Further shaping of the blank may be achieved through heating, flattening, and extrusion. Edges and holes may also be chamfered.

Design and Manufacture with NMG Aerospace

NMG Aerospace has decades of aircraft wheel and brake manufacturing experience. We are proud to support aircraft manufacturers from the early stages of design and development to production design, manufacturing, and quality testing. With our deep knowledge of aircraft braking systems, airplane wheels, and landing gear assemblies, we can advise on nuanced design and production challenges.

With a broad range of manufacturing capabilities and over 40,000 square feet of machining space, NMG Aerospace is equipped to meet all of your aerospace manufacturing needs. Whether you are designing something new, updating an existing design, or seeking to solve a problem, you can count on NMG Aerospace for guidance.

To learn more about our aircraft brake and plane wheel manufacturing services and discuss a project, talk to a member of our team.