Aerospace Forger Flying High After 50 YearsJun 21, 2015
Aerospace OEMs and their major suppliers are enjoying extraordinary rates of activity, mainly driven by heavy demand for new commercial aircraft to replace aging fleets and to fill the requirements of new regional carriers. This has happened before, in the 1960s to be specific, and at that time the demand had the additional thrust of space exploration, initiating all-new concepts for aircraft and aerospace vehicles, and the critical components that made them possible.
Aluminum Precision Products Inc. (APP), in Santa Ana, CA, entered the scene in 1965, introducing precision forging capabilities for aerospace applications, and 50 years later its expertise is evident with parts for projects that include the Mars Rover, the Space Shuttle, and Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner. It has made an impact in other industries, too, as seen in the forged wheels for high-performance sports cars, like Ferraris and Lamborghinis.
Half a century after its start-up, APP is a vertically integrated manufacturer of forged, machined, finished, and assembled components, forging closed-die and open-die aluminum parts and closed-die titanium forgings for aerospace, automotive, recreation, industrial, and medical device manufacturers. Customers include every major aircraft and aerospace manufacturer, automotive OEMs, motorsports teams and after-market manufacturers.
What started in 1965 as an 8,000-sq.ft. plant with 10 employees now covers 21 locations and over 700,000 sq.ft. of production space, and nearly 1,000 employees.
Production equipment totals 69 hydraulic and mechanical forging presses, ranging from 300 to 8,000 tons; 36 CNC machines for cutting, turning, and grinding; and eight CNC die-sinking centers. Closed-die forging capabilities range from 1 to 650 square inches in “plan view area” (1 to 250 sq.in PVA for titanium forgings); and open-die forgings are offered in maximum weights to 6,000 lb. net.
The seed of APP’s progress was founder Philip S. Keeler groundbreaking development of the “precision forging” method. His process eliminated the need for machining operations to meet all dimensional requirements, while producing accurately shaped, precision forged parts to a tolerance of ±0.015 inches — and still retained the strength, reliability, and weight required by aerospace manufacturers.
Keeler’s process relied on innovative tool and die designs, and controlled application of pressure, heat, and lubricants for aluminum (and later, titanium) parts. Over five decades, APP has registered many process and mechanical patents that allow it to maintain its position among forging suppliers and reputation for innovative manufacturing of aerospace components.
After its initial launch, APP began to develop titanium forging capability to accommodate the needs of an expanding customer base, and this led to several acquisitions of competitors and complementary businesses.
Fifty years after its launch, APP’s capabilities range from initial part design to final assembly. Its operations include an engineering and tooling department with advanced simulation and CAD/CAM platforms, and full range of die-manufacturing equipment to handle design, fabrication, service, and repair of all forging dies.
APP is accredited to Nadcap standards for heat treatment, fluorescent penetrant and ultrasonic inspection. It is AS-9100 Accredited and QS-9000 Accredited at its Oxnard, CA, plant, and it is approved by every major airframe prime contractor in the world, including more than 500 sub-tier suppliers.
Among its aerospace industry customers APP lists Airbus, Bell Helicopter, Boeing, Bombardier, Cessna, Embraer, Gulfstream, Honeywell, Learjet, Lockheed Martin, Northrup Grumman, and Sikorsky.
In the automotive industry, APP is forging wheels, engine blocks, pistons, and suspension components for brands like Alfa Romeo, Aston-Martin, AMG, Audi, Brembo SPA, Ducati, Ferrari, Koenigsegg, Lamborghini, McLaren, Pagani, Porsche, and several automotive aftermarket clients.
The forger continues to develop new technologies and processes for applications in industries including solar and wind energy, marine systems, and various high technology applications. It’s also focused on identifying new markets, and plans to expand in the Asian Pacific and other markets.
“Our tremendous success during the past 50 years would not have been possible without the excellent performance, proven skill and enduring dedication and loyalty of our employees,” commented Greg Keeler, president and chief executive officer, Aluminum Precision Products, Inc. “Since day one, Aluminum Precision Products has been on the path of continuous improvement and that, coupled with constant innovation, has created a company that we are not only proud of, but one that is respected worldwide by the world’s largest manufacturers.”