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Aircraft Bracket Forming Tool


Aircraft Bracket Forming Tool


Top Flight Aerostructures


Georgia, United States


Onyx, Fiberglass


Tooling and Fixtures


Aerospace and Defense

Aircraft Bracket Forming Tool

3D Printed Aircraft Bracket Forming Tool

Top Flight Aerostructures

Top Flight Aerostructures is an aerospace engineering and manufacturing business that supports the US Military aviation by providing engineering support, manufacturing, repair, and overhaul for composite and adhesively bonded metal components. “Our challenge is that we typically receive orders for a small quantity of parts, where pricing must be very competitive,” says Greg Kress, VP at Top Flight Aerostructures. On many of their orders, tooling represents a large portion of their manufacturing costs — skilled labor is expensive, and the CNC bandwidth required for tooling takes away from time they could be using to make revenue generating parts. In an effort to find a low-cost tooling solution, the company discovered Markforged continuous fiber 3D printers and decided to invest in a Mark Two.

One of the first applications Top Flight Aerostructures found value in was forming tools. This tool — printed in Onyx reinforced with continuous fiberglass — was used in a 100 ton hydraulic press to form an edge support bracket for a C-5M Galaxy, the largest cargo plane in the American military. Top Flight was able to quickly model the tool in SolidWorks 2019 and quickly and easily print it on their Mark Two, completely bypassing the need to program and set up their CNC. Eiger, Markforged’s 3D printing software, allowed them to reinforce the tool with continuous fiberglass fiber at high-stress points. The resultant tool performed just as well as a CNC tool would have for a fraction of the cost, labor, and machine bandwidth.

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