Big news from the world of aerospace this month! Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic will be launching its first commercial spaceflights before the end of 2018, according to Space.com.
As with many ventures in the world of engineering, this latest undertaking combines the hard work of brilliant engineers, with the drive and passion of entrepreneurs. Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and Branson himself have been the trailblazers in the development of the space tourism industry, and it’s only a matter of time until we see a new generation coming through with grand designs for the domination of space.
Engineers and entrepreneurs are a match made in heaven, so this rapid progress of the space tourism comes as no surprise. In fact, many of the skills and personality traits required to be a successful engineer are what makes excellent entrepreneurs. This is especially true when facing and resolving problems, without backing down.
For the likes of Virgin Galactic, being the first private aerospace company in space has almost unimaginable financial potential. In short, it’s a gold mine, so no expense is spared at this stage.
As the space tourism sector matures, however, and more competitors begin to enter the market, companies will be restricted by the same business rules the average engineering firm experiences on earth. First and foremost, these companies need to be profitable (or at least break even!) To achieve this, engineers will be charged with making efficiency gains, reducing waste and weight, and minimising costs.
It’s at this point that engineers will begin exploring alternatives to their design and manufacturing processes. They’ll look for changes they can make which will retain quality but save time and money.
How do we know? Because we see it every week with manufacturers from across industry, as they seek viable alternatives to traditional engineering techniques.
They’ve often been using processes such as CNC machining for years because ‘they do the job’, but now, as margins tighten, they need to cut costs without reducing the quality of parts. Sound familiar?
When approached to help, in a surprising number of cases we find that machining isn’t the most cost effective method of producing parts. The reasons for this vary; for example, because of the volumes needed, or the complexity of parts leading to a complicated machining process.
It can therefore be important to consider alternative methods that deliver the same performance, but for less cost. Switching from machining to precision cold forming, for example, is a great example of this in action.
Cold forming produces metal components at room temperature without removing material, which means the cost of raw materials is reduced by as much as 80% when compared with machining. But also, since the part hardens during the manufacturing process, the machinability and durability of the product is improved. So just by switching from machining to cold forming, significant savings can be made, while the mechanical properties of each part can be improved. Imagine making these types of changes in the production of every part that goes into a product – the potential is huge.
Through-life improvement is something that is often ignored and overlooked, but it’s necessary. Regardless of sector, challenging the status quo by exploring alternatives is healthy and contributes to better products and healthier bottom lines. That’s something every entrepreneur knows and we can all benefit from, not just those in the race to space.
You can learn more about precision cold forming and its benefits with this free white paper.