Aerospace Industry Today

How tungsten alloy can improve aircraft

Tungsten alloy is used in the aerospace industry for many applications, including propeller weights, anti-flutter and anti-vibration components and ballast.
Published 16 August 2013

M&I Materials is a leading supplier of tungsten heavy alloy for hundreds of companies worldwide. The company has been manufacturing its brand Wolfmet at the Manchester factory for over 40 years.

Wolfmet tungsten alloy has become a key component in many applications, and one of its primary uses is in the aerospace industry. It can be found on many kinds of aircraft, and is commonly employed as a way of balancing the weight of the structure or helping to reduce vibration when flying.

Some of the main areas where Wolfmet tungsten alloy can be useful on an aircraft include:

• Propellers - the alloy can be added to propeller and rotor blades on aeroplanes and helicopters in order to act as a counterweight that will help to prevent them from spinning too fast.

• Anti-flutter/flight control - every aircraft has many components, and some of these need to be counterweighted to ensure the flight runs smoothly. In particular, external components such as rudders, flaps, ailerons and elevators must have this extra weight to prevent fluttering and other factors that could disrupt the flight.

• Ballast - commonly used in test flights, tungsten alloy can be used to simulate the weight of baggage and passengers to help designers form an accurate impression of how the plane will perform on a regular flight.

• Anti-vibration - the extra weight provided by tungsten alloy helps reduce vibration in the main body of the aircraft, ensuring greater comfort for passengers. It can also be used to tackle vibrations in individual components such as control sticks to make them easier to use.

Why tungsten? Tungsten alloy offers advantages over competing metals such as lead. Its increased density makes it by far the best option in cases where a lot of weight is required to fill a small space, as is sometimes the case with aircraft ballast.

This property is also useful in other areas, including radiation shielding in medicine. Wolfmet tungsten alloy is able to perform the same vital function as lead using much less material, allowing for reduced thickness and weight. Additionally, it has long been acknowledged that lead is toxic to humans, so there are certain situations where tungsten becomes an easier choice as fewer safety precautions are needed.

Other areas in which Wolfmet tungsten alloy performs well include the automotive sector, while it is also used in hot metal working and tooling.

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