Mission Critical Polymers for Performance Rocketry

Every part of a rocket’s design is critical. If one piece fails or the performance of that piece doesn’t match the demands of the environment, then the whole rocket fails. Organizations like NASA, Boeing, Blue Origin and SpaceX approach rocket part design and selection with careful consideration.

Polymers have a unique position in the Aerospace and Defense market as they present features and capabilities that can stand the test of harsh environments and continuous use. High heat, dielectric strength, moisture resistance, insulative properties and impact strength all come into play in building the parts that make a performance rocket launch skyward.

In this insightful blog, we discuss four key aerospace polymers enabling success in the rocket industry.


VESPEL® by DuPont

Polyimide (PI) is an extreme-performance thermoplastic branded by DuPont Co. as VESPEL®. The material’s prime characteristics include outstanding creep resistance, high impact strength, and low wear at high PV. VESPEL® components allow for continuous operation temperatures of 500°F (260°C) with short-term excursion capabilities of 900°F (482°C). It is a well-known performance thermoplastic for aircraft parts, such as thrust washers, valve seats, seals and wear components.

VESPEL® is available in many grades to meet specific design requirements. The current available grades include SP-1 (Unfilled), SP-21 (15% Graphite), SP-22 (40% Graphite), SP-211 (15% Graphite and 10% PTFE) and SP-3 (15% Molybdenum Disulfide).



When it comes to high heat and stress, TORLON® can take it. Polyamide Imide (PAI) is an amorphous thermoplastic with the highest performing, melt-processability. It maintains strength and stiffness up to 500°F (260°C), has excellent wear resistance, and endures harsh thermal, chemical and stress conditions. With its continuous use under high heat and stress, this material is often used in the following aerospace applications:  bearing cages, high temperature electrical connectors, structural parts, valve seats, seals and wear components.

There are several TORLON® grades available for PAI, including TORLON® 4203 (electrical and high strength), TORLON® 4301 (general purpose wear), TORLON® 4XG (glass-reinforced) and TORLON® 4XCF (carbon-reinforced).




KEL-F, or PCTFE (polychlorotrifluoroethylene), is a type of fluoropolymer that has a wide range of applications in the aerospace industry. It is prized for its high strength and durability, as well as its resistance to chemicals, heat, and wear. What makes KEL-F® stand out is its temperature range from -400°F to +400°F. KEL-F® In aerospace applications, KEL-F® is often used in fuel lines, hydraulic systems, and gaskets. Thanks to its unique properties, KEL-F® is an essential material for many aerospace applications.

At AIP, we machine various grades and brand name PCTFE. Branded names include the following: KEL-F® and NEOFLON®.




PTFE, or Polytetrafluoroethylene, is a synthetic fluoropolymer of tetrafluoroethylene that has numerous applications in aerospace due to its low coefficient of friction, high temperatures and chemical resistance, and non-stick properties. PTFE was first used in the aerospace industry in the 1940s and has since been used in a variety of aerospace applications such as fuel lines, hydraulic systems, and gaskets.

At AIP, we machine various grades and brand name PTFE. Branded names include the following:  FLUOROSINT® 207, FLUOROSINT® 500, DYNEON®, SEMITRON® ESD 500HR, SEMITRON® PTFE, TEFLON®.



Polymers take flight as a new standard of aircraft excellence

As aerospace rocketry and aircraft continue to evolve with advanced technologies and sophisticated capabilities, material selection is crucial. Every piece that goes into a rocket is carefully thought and crafted for the highest level of performance. Torlon®, Vespel®, KEL-F® and PTFE are all thermoplastics enabling success in mission critical Aerospace and Defense rocketry.



Supporting Materials

Aerospace Market Materials

Aerospace & Defense Machining

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Push the Boundaries of High Performance and Sustainability With Precision Polyimides

When it comes to choosing a polymer for critical applications, there is no room for compromise. You need a material that can withstand the most challenging conditions while still providing the performance you need. For extreme environments, there is no better choice than DuPont’s Vespel® polyimide.

This unique polymer has been proven to exceed the performance of other materials in demanding applications, making it an essential component for mission-critical systems. With its exceptional strength and thermal stability, polyimide is ideal for use in aerospace and automotive engineering. So if you’re looking for a polymer that can handle anything, look no further than Vespel® polyimide.


Vespel® Works Overtime in Harsh, Demanding Environments


Image Source: Alan Turing Institute


Polyimide or Vespel® is a high-performance polymer made to withstand extreme environments where continuous friction and vast temperature variations are the norms. It’s most commonly found in engine components for the automotive and aerospace industries, as well as bushings and seals in industrial and energy applications. These mission-critical parts might come as small pieces, but they make a significant difference in weight, stability, and material longevity. Let’s take a closer look at how Vespel® benefits the Aerospace and Defense industry.


Aerospace applications of PI include:

  • compressors
  • fans
  • externals
  • nacelles
  • and engine oil system seals


The engine of an aircraft, whether for military or commercial use, is the most essential part of the plane. Keeping an aircraft in the sky and ensuring it reaches its destination is more than mission-critical; it’s non-negotiable. Vespel® meets the challenges of these environments, providing engineers with an innovative material advantage.


Vespel® Features and Benefits

Vespel® thrives in some of the most punishing environments like aircraft engines or gas-fired turbines. Here, we explore the top three features and benefits of Vespel®:


Feature Benefit
Vespel® is a lightweight alternative to metal. It offers a high tensile (8,750 psi) and flexural (16,000 psi) strength at one-half the weight of metal. Save weight – Vespel® offers astounding weight-saving benefits for aircraft by replacing metal or aluminum parts that add unnecessary weight.
Continuous service temperature – cryogenic temperatures to 260°C (500°F). Resist wear – With high temperatures, high speeds, and constant environmental fluctuations, Vespel® is a top choice for impact resistance and material preservation. It’s often found on bushings, fan blade root wear strips, as well as custom bumpers and pads.
Lower friction versus metal with a dynamic coefficient of 0.2 or less. Minimize friction losses – Components such as bushings need to withstand impact, cantilever loading, and accommodate designs with tight fits. Vespel slows part degradation and improves overall aircraft operability.


How Vespel® Compares to Other High-Performance Plastics

Vespel® is a high-performance plastic that is used in a variety of applications where strength, stability, and resistance to extreme temperatures are required. How does it stack up to other performance plastics like PEEK (Polyetheretherketone) and PEI (Polyethylenimine)?

Image Source: Performance Plastics Chart


When it comes to precision plastics, PEEK and PEI hold their own as exceptional engineering plastics. PEEK is often used in the medical field as a material for bone implants. PEI is most commonly used in high voltage electrical insulation applications due to its high dielectric strength. In comparison to PEEK and PEI, Vespel® has superior mechanical strength and flexibility.


Additionally, Vespel® is resistant to a wide range of chemicals, making it an ideal material for use in harsh environments. While Vespel® has many advantages over other high-performance plastics, it remains more expensive than these materials due to its complex manufacturing process.


Why Choose AIP for Your Vespel® Project?

When you’re working with a material like Vespel®, there is no margin for error. That’s why choosing a machining shop includes how they handle the material and how they handle your project from concept to completion.


38 Years of Precision Plastics Expertise

At AIP Precision Machining, we have over 38 years of experience in precision thermoplastics. Unlike other shops that may machine metals or other materials alongside plastics, our shop is 100% dedicated to plastics machining. It makes a difference in quality at the end of the day, as you can be assured that your machined parts will not deteriorate or crack from exposure to metal machining fluids.


Quality Assurance From Beginning to End

From start to finish, we take quality and compliance seriously. AIP is certified and adheres to the following regulations and standards:

  • ITAR
  • AS9100:2016
  • FDA Registered
  • ISO 13485.


Partnering With Leading Industry Suppliers

We have close ties with leading plastics manufacturers to give us even further insight and access to technical help in material selection, sizing, and machining protocols.


Through these partnerships, we offer a variety of materials available for expert machining services, including:

  • Vespel® SP and Vespel® SCP products
  • Ultem®
  • Ertalyte®
  • Radel®
  • Torlon®
  • Delrin®
  • and more


Unrivaled Expertise. Unparalleled Results

If you are interested in a quote for machined Vespel® or want a consultation for your precision project, give our team a call at (386) 274-5335 or click here. No matter how unique or complex your project may be, we are here to provide unrivaled expertise and guidance.

Find your next aerospace material for your mission-critical application.



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Here’s Why PEEK Is Kicking Metal to the Curb in Performance Engineering Applications

In the thermoplastic industry, there are a few materials that reign supreme. Among these, PEEK (polyetheretherketone) is king. This polymer has several advantages over traditional metal fabrication.


In this PEEK guide, we’re exploring why high-performance thermoplastic PEEK is kicking metal to the curb. PEEK has the strength and durability of metal, but at a fraction of the weight and resists chemicals and hydrolysis. It’s these qualities that allow PEEK polymers to replace metals in precision engineered components.


Industries That Benefit From PEEK Versus Metals

Let’s take a look at how PEEK improves performance and functionality in some leading mission-critical industries.


Aerospace and Defense

The aerospace and defense sector often replaces aluminum parts in favor of PEEK for weight reduction and its tolerance to high temperatures. The benefits include fuel reduction and longer part lifespan. PEEK is also a safer material to use, since its low conductivity allows for lower heat build-up.

Another strength of PEEK over metals is inherent to all plastics. PEEK has exceptional thermal and electrical insulative properties, which comes in handy with equipment designed to undergo extreme stress. Thermal insulation ensures the pieces won’t melt or damage neighboring equipment, much in the same way electrical insulation will stop damaging currents of electricity from harming critical systems on the plane.


Medical and Life Sciences

Material choice and design functionality make a vast difference for surgical instrumentation in the medical field. As a chemically inert thermoplastic, PEEK wins over metal in areas where chemicals may be present. Furthermore, PEEK offers radiolucency for scanning machines that need to produce clear readings of the interior of the body. Metals often muddle or interfere with the imaging.

PEEK has passed all ISO 10993 biocompatibility tests for both short and long-term implants. However, because PEEK is so durable, it’s generally only recommended for long-term implants.


Oil and Gas

With excellent resistance to abrasion, chemicals, and hydrolysis, PEEK thrives in tough environments, such as offshore oil rigs. The equipment in the oil and gas industry is placed deep underground where conditions, chemical reactions, and forces are unpredictable. PEEK is a common material for seals and valve plates to ensure a fail-safe environment.


Precision Devices

The use of PEEK in precision devices is not just for its elevated level of structural rigidity but also because it provides electrical insulation. Connector covers and transducer cases are made from this material to avoid interference with signals passing through the wires within a device. Since this industry engineers streamlined lighter designs, PEEK is an ideal choice for weight reduction.


Weight Reduction



One of the leading reasons for choosing PEEK over metallic competitors like aluminum or titanium is its lightweight properties. This has opened the door to many engineering material innovations.


One area, in particular, is aerospace and defense. Using PEEK over metals can cut fuel usage and create weight savings of up to 60 percent. This translates to lower annual fuel costs, reduced emissions, lower carbon footprints, and extended flight ranges.


Enhanced Performance

Polyetheretherketone PEEK provides performance-enhanced products by extending service life and resistance to corrosion with a lower coefficient of friction. In dynamic applications such as bearings or seals, this tough plastic can increase load capacity while also operating at temperatures of up to 480°F. This translates to fewer instances of maintenance and a longer overall performance from the system as a whole.


Design Freedom

One of the greatest strengths of thermoplastics is their contribution to design processes. PEEK can be CNC machined, injection molded, and even 3D printed. This type of versatility enables greater design freedom for complex engineering and custom geometries. Thermoplastic PEEK versus metals can be machined to specific tolerances as low as 0.002mm with the right machining shop.


High Purity



The medical sector demands nothing less than complete purity from materials, especially in the case of orthopedic implants, for instance. Metallosis is a real concern for metal implants as they can leach into the body. PEEK ,including Glass-Filled, PEEK-HT (High Temperature), and PEEK-UHP (Ultra-High Purity) are all desirable alternatives for metal applications in food processing, biomedical, and semiconductors.


Total Lower System Cost

When it comes to individual material costs, PEEK can range from 20 to 30 times the cost of some metals like stainless steel. Yet, the stand-alone cost cannot be the main factor in high-performance design decisions. Engineers look at the big picture in the long run of material value.

With the overall improvement in material performance, longevity, weight reduction, and purity factors, PEEK significantly decreases the cost of a total system. This is why it’s a popular material choice for high-performance engineering components.


The Global Leader for Performance PEEK Components

Precision and performance are what we strive for at AIP Precision Machining. With decades of experience in the industry, our dedicated craftsmen and close ties with leading plastic manufacturers allow us to provide unrivaled knowledge and consulting services in material selection, sizing, manufacturing techniques, and more to best meet your project’s needs.

If you are looking to use PEEK for your precision project, reach out to our team for a consultation. We are here to help solve your plastics puzzle and provide technical expertise and diligent craftsmanship from concept to completion.


Thinking about PEEK for your precision project?

Discover what this polymer can do



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Not just a standard…THE standard


AS9100D Logo

AS9100 is a company level certification based on the ISO 9001 quality standard requirements, but with additional requirements based on the needs of the aerospace industry. These satisfy both ISO 9001 quality standards and DOD, NASA and FAA requirements.

Companies in the business of manufacturing parts and components for both federal and civil enterprises in the aerospace sector are required to provide the highest level of quality assurance for their manufacturing techniques. Why? A single malfunctioning part on an aircraft could have a devastating impact on the entire apparatus. Not only is it dangerous for operation, but maintenance for an unknown malfunction is costly in time, budget, and resources.

That’s why the Aerospace and Defense industry has developed a strict quality management process for manufacturers to follow known as AS9100D. Here’s why it’s essential for precision plastics manufacturers to have an AS9100D certification.


Benefits of AS9100D Certification for Aerospace Machining Standards


Satellite orbiting Earth

Global Standard

An AS9100D certification is internationally recognized around the world, but with different numbering conventions. The International Standards Organization equivalent is ISO 9001. Major aerospace manufacturers and suppliers worldwide require compliance and/or registration to AS9100 as a condition of doing business with them.

Quality Assurance

When it comes to machining for the Aerospace and Defense sector, quality and consistency in manufacturing techniques are paramount. An AS9100D certification ensures that machining processes, product handling, storage, and shipping are all accounted for in a facility’s processes.

Requirement for Business

Material suppliers that wish to serve the Aviation, Space and Defense (AS&D) industry must attain this certification to prove the high level of competence required by the industry.

Works at the Federal & Civil Enterprise Level

The guidance recommended by AS9100D satisfies standards for NASA, DOD, and FAA. Whether a manufacturer is working with a federal-level defense contractor or a commercial jet line, an AS9100D certification shows commitment to quality processes around manufacturing aerospace parts.


How to get AS9100D certified

Certifying your machining processes are safe and consistent is a requirement for doing business in the Aerospace and Defense sector. In order to get an AS9100D certification, a company must prove its ability to remeasure and reassess a product during the construction phase, ensuring uniformity among mass-produced items. The certification does not focus on product quality, but product consistency in the end result. Here are a few areas to pay attention to if seeking the certification for manufacturing aerospace materials:

  • Emphasis on Risk Management
  • Attention to “Special Requirements”
  • Attention to “Critical Items”
  • Measure: Requirements conformance
  • Measure: Delivery performance
  • Adopt Proven Product Development Processes
  • Eliminate “recurring corrective actions”



Expert Aerospace Machining for Aircraft Plastic and Composite Parts

Jet fighters, satellites, and in particular spaceships need the highest level of precision engineering to accomplish their goals. To that end, machining plastic components to these exacting standards isn’t easy…it’s precise. At AIP, we’ve been working in precision plastics machining for over three decades. Our projects include major aerospace companies like Lockheed Martin and GE, all demanding the highest level of risk assessment and quality management throughout the entire machining process.

To that end, we are setting the standard for Aerospace and Defense plastic machining. In aerospace and defense applications, adherence to stringent industry specifications is something AIP takes seriously. AIP is a certified and registered ITAR facility and AS9100D certified. We are capable of satisfying all customer DOD, NASA and FAA quality requirements recommended by our OEM customers. We understand the need for lot and batch traceability, as well as materials that can survive extreme operating environments.

Every product we develop is made from carefully selected materials for your specific application and needs. Our high-performance thermoplastics and compounds made for the aerospace and defense industry feature:

  • Chemical resistance
  • Conductive or insulative properties
  • Corrosion protection
  • Extreme Precision tolerance (up to 0.002 mm)
  • Finished smooth surface
  • High-temperature resistance (exceeding 750 F, 400C)
  • Lightweight
  • No stress-induced distortion
  • Radar absorption

Want to contact us about aerospace manufacturing?

Get in touch with us online, or see our  AD9100D:2016 certification.

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What Is an AS9100 Certification?


Developed by the International Aerospace Quality Group (IAQG), the AS9100 is an international quality management certification. Material suppliers that wish to serve the Aviation, Space and Defense (AS&D) industry must attain this certification to prove the high level of competence required by the industry. AS9100 applies to both military and civil businesses.


The standard is accepted worldwide, with different parts of the world having their own numbering systems, but crucially, they all prove the same level of competence. Whether a company is made up of thousands of individuals or just one person, it will require the AS9100 to provide supplies to the aerospace industry.


However, just because a company could theoretically consist of one person doesn’t mean the certification is attained on an individual level. The AS9100 is a company-wide certification, meaning that it can only be acquired and applied to a company. So, if Darrel is the sole owner and employee of ABCD Inc. and earns the certification, Darrel isn’t certified, ABCD Inc. is.


Becoming AS9100 certified also means earning an ISO 9001 certification along the way. The reason is that the AS9100 is an extension of the ISO 9001 with an additional focus on aerospace regulations. So, companies that achieve an AS9100 will be qualified in multiple quality management systems.


Finally, the AS9100 certification is not a standard of product quality. Rather, it’s a standard of the processes taken to ensure a quality, consistent product. To attain the certification, a company must prove its ability to remeasure and reassess a product during the construction phase, ensuring uniformity among mass-produced items. The certificate may not focus on product quality, but the end result is the same.


Why Must a Plastics Machining Facility Be AS9100 Certified?

The quick and easy answer is that the certification is required by many aerospace manufacturers. If a plastics machining facility wishes to do business in this industry, attaining the certificate is an entry-level requirement.


The longer answer is that several large aerospace entities endorse the certification. Some of these groups include the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). To become an official supplier to any of these entities, a plastics machining facility Must have the certification.


But why do these institutions require the certification? Jet fighters, satellites, and especially spaceships need the highest level of precision engineering to accomplish their tasks; creating plastic components to such exacting standards isn’t easy. So, every stage of the creation process, all the way down to the small plastic materials, must go through a strenuous quality management system to ensure a low-risk management level for the final product.


What About AIP Precision Machining Allows Us to Achieve an AS9100 Certification?


We’ve made it no secret that precision machining is vital to who we are as a company. So much so that we’ve put it in our name! With AIP Precision Machining, you’re investing in a partner that not only understands the needs of the industry but has the decades of experience needed to perfect the processes that go into creating the perfect components.


With the regulatory requirements being as stringent as they are, there is no room for the kind of mistakes human factors tend to introduce to the manufacturing process. That’s why we involve several quality control checks in line with AS9100’s requirements during the creation process to guarantee the level of service quality expected from us.


We’ve satisfied several aerospace and defense industry requirements in the past, so we know the kind of qualities these industries need in their components. Our highly trained engineers, machinists, and programmers have been specially trained to create components with the types of qualities aerospace and defense organizations look for:


  • Lightweight
  • Durable
  • Extreme Temperature Resistance
  • And much more.


At AIP Precision Machining, product and service quality assurance is the norm for our customers and ourselves. We are proud to offer the aerospace industry our services in machining quality components. We have proven time and again that we are quick to deliver, cost-effective, and, more often than not, surpass customer satisfaction. Our safe and reliable products meet all statutory and regulatory requirements and are guaranteed to help see your project through to the end.


To contact us, call our main office at (386) 274-5335 or visit our website to schedule a consultation. With AIP, you have a manufacturing partner you can rely on.


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Keeping aircraft in “PEEK” condition for flight


High-temperature lightweight materials are critical to aircraft applications. Aircraft engines can reach temperatures up to 3812 Fahrenheit (2100 Celsius); vehicles at higher altitudes undergo extreme temperature changes compared to ground operations. Aircraft components and equipment must be able to withstand these temperatures in addition to high pressure, vibrations, impact, and corrosion to maintain reliable, safe operation. Among the advanced materials on the market, polyetheretherketone (PEEK) is a top material choice for aerospace and defense critical component applications.


AIP has over 39 years of experience machining complex tight tolerance components from thermoplastics like Polyetheretherketone (PEEK).  In this insightful technical brief, we discuss the advantages of PEEK for thermal applications in aviation component manufacturing.



PEEK for Machined Aircraft Components


Industrial-grade PEEK is a thermoplastic known for its flame retardance, abrasion resistance, and high impact strength. It is known for maintaining its mechanical properties at elevated temperatures, which makes it an ideal candidate for aircraft components.


Key Properties

  • Abrasion Resistance
  • Chemical Resistance
  • High Ductility
  • High Elongation
  • Hydrolysis Resistance
  • Low Outgassing
  • Thermal Stability


PEEK’s diversity of aerospace applications includes:

  • Flight control components
  • Fuel system components
  • Aircraft interiors
  • Engine and aerodynamic-related components


3 Benefits of PEEK’s thermal capabilities for aerospace materials


There are numerous reasons to choose PEEK for aircraft components. Aircraft often undergo extreme temperature fluctuations due to extreme altitude changes. Therefore, it’s critical for aircraft components to maintain their functionality and integrity in various operational environments.


While metals play a key role in aviation materials, especially structurally, they can’t compete with thermoplastics in several categories, including thermal and electrical isolation and lightweight/high-heat performance. There are three reasons PEEK is a better choice than metals for thermal applications:


Insulating and Radar Absorbent:  Military vessels and aircraft rely on stealth to carry out critical missions and projects. Thermoplastics like PEEK are naturally radar-absorbent as well as thermally and electrically insulating.  These properties allow for flame retardance, radar transmissivity, weight reduction, and insulating properties all combined in one!


Corrosion-Resistant:  Exposure to harsh chemicals is inevitable whether on a plane, drone, or space vehicle. PEEK handles high temperatures of 480 Fahrenheit (249 Celsius) continuously and maintains functionality in hostile environments during exposure to water, chemicals, aircraft fuels, and steam. This quality alone can increase the lifespan of an aircraft, save operators on costly maintenance services, and reduce MRO downtime for more operational time per aircraft per year.   


Flame and Smoke Resistances:  PEEK carries a V-O flammability rating and exhibits very low smoke and toxic gas emissions when exposed to flame.  Therefore, PEEK is an ideal candidate for interior aircraft components. Today’s commercial jet engines can reach temperatures as high as 3,092 degrees Fahrenheit (1,700 Celcius). Under such a heat index, aircraft materials have to maintain functionality, and PEEK is an excellent material for numerous applications within PEEK’s thermal capability range.


PEEK is a material choice over metal not only for its thermal properties, but as a lightweight material, it shaves off excess weight that would have otherwise increased the fuel usage in an aircraft. It’s estimated that operators can make weight savings up to 60 percent When converting metallic components to high-performance polymers such as PEEK. This translates to lower annual fuel costs, reduced emissions, lower carbon footprint, and extended flight ranges.


Choosing a machining facility for your aerospace manufacturing


PEEK and other thermoplastics continue to gain attention as a material choice for high-performance aircraft and aerospace manufacturing applications. It’s important to not only focus on the thermal properties of the material but the overall capabilities of a material and how it could fit into your design.


When researching machining shops for your performance plastic aerospace application, look for a manufacturer that machines only plastics. Some manufacturers machine both metals and plastics on the same machine, and that can contaminate a precision polymer machined part with micro metallic fragments.


Also, ensure the facility is audited and registered to the correct regulatory standards, including CMMC, ITAR, FDA, and AS9100D. Most OEMs work under stringent regulations, especially those affiliated with government operations. It’s critical to have a shop that communicates with you every step of the machining process and follows these strict regulations.


If you are looking for thermoplastics like PEEK for an aerospace project, AIP’s engineers offer design consultation, precision plastics machining expertise, and on-time project delivery. For over 39 years, AIP has worked with performance thermoplastics from PEEK, VESPEL, TORLON, RADEL, TEFLON, and ULTEM to provide highly precise and extremely resilient machined parts. One final key component is to assure your polymer machining partner is capable and well experienced in thermal stress reliving of polymer materials. There is more to machining mission-critical polymer aerospace components than just the machining! Contact AIP for a consultation on your mission-critical project.


Supportive Information


Aerospace Materials
Peek Variants Guide


Thermoplastics make a big difference in weight savings for aerospace materials. See how:


Read Our Blog


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An Informational Brief on Polymer Machining


Polycarbonate, one of the oldest known polymers, was first discovered in 1898 by Alfred Einhorn at the University of Munich. It was not until 1953 that Bayer patented the first linear polycarbonate and branded it as “Makrolon”. Ever since then, this material has become one of the most commonly used polymers across multiple industries.


Known for its durability, stability and clarity, polycarbonate is commonly found in car lighting systems, shatter-proof windows and “glass parts” replacement in aerospace applications like military fighter jet canopies, as well as laboratory lenses, heat-loaded plastic parts, electric circuits and other electrical applications. Not only is PC tough with excellent impact strength, it is easily machined, molded and thermoformed.


AIP has over 35 years of experience machining complex components from thermoplastics like polycarbonate. In this insightful technical brief, we will discuss what goes into machining polycarbonate and how it differs from other manufacturing options such as metal machining, injection molding, and 3D printing.


Properties of Polycarbonate


Keeping information about the properties of a thermoplastic beforehand is always beneficial. This helps in selecting the right thermoplastic for an application. It also assists in evaluating if the end use requirement would be fulfilled or not. Here are some of the key properties of polycarbonate:


PC (Polycarbonate) is a transparent amorphous thermoplastic characterized by very high impact strength and a high modulus of elasticity. PC absorbs very little moisture, resists acidic solutions and has a 290°F (145°C) heat deflection temperature at 264 psi.


Additionally, PC has good dielectric strength, UV resistance and is an easily machined material. Compared to Acetal, PC has a higher tensile strength at temperatures over 140°F (60°C), as well a low dissipation factor. PC also has a much higher temperature resistance than acrylic and offers greater impact resistance.


Grades of Polycarbonate


At AIP, we machine various grades and brand name polycarbonates including: LEXAN, HYZOD/MAKROLON, QUADRANT PC 1000, SUSTANAT PC, TECANAT, ZELUX and 20% glass reinforced polycarbonate.


Our close ties with the industry’s leading plastics manufacturers give us even further insight and access to technical help in material selection, sizing and manufacturing procedures. Whatever your application, our machinists can help you in material selection, sizing and manufacturing techniques from concept to completion.


Machining Polycarbonate


Annealing Polycarbonate
Polymers like PC are prone to stress cracking and premature part failure when placed under high heat and tensile load. Therefore, annealing is crucial if you want a quality, precision machined part out of the stock shape. The annealing process at AIP greatly reduces the chances of these stresses occurring from the heat generated during machining PC and other polymers. Our machinists use computer controlled annealing ovens for the highest quality precision machining.


Machining Polycarbonate
Polycarbonate rod and plate are easy to machine and have excellent dimensional stability. We recommend non-aromatic, water-soluble coolants because they are most suitable for ideal surface finishes and close tolerances. These include pressurized air and spray mists. Coolants have the additional benefit of extending tool life as well.


Some companies machine both metals and plastics, which has detrimental outcomes for machined polymer products. Many past experiences have shown parts going to customer without cracks, only to develop surface cracks and warping over time due to exposure to metal machine shop fluids. Be sure to use a facility like AIP that only machines polymers.


Discover more about the advantages of plastics over metals


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Preventing Contamination
Contamination is a serious concern when machining polymer components for technically demanding industries such as aerospace and medical sciences. To ensure the highest level of sanitation down to the sub-molecular level, AIP Precision Machining designs, heat-treats, and machines only plastics with any sub-manufactured metalwork processed outside our facility. This allows us to de-risk the process from metallic cross contamination.


Polycarbonate Machining Guide: Supportive Information


Amorphous Materials

Do you have a question about a precision machined part from polycarbonate or another polymer?


Get a Consultation



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How Aluminum Got Dethroned by Thermoplastics in Aerospace


Cup holders. Magazines. Suit cases. Aircraft engines. Here’s a riddle, what do these items all have in common? If you’re an aircraft operator, the answer is obvious: they all add weight, making them a drain on your fuel costs.


If weight is one of the main operating costs of an aircraft, then it’s no surprise that airlines want to lose a few pounds. Over the last 36 years, AIP has witnessed firsthand the incredible weight savings that can be gained from using lightweight polymers and composites for aerospace applications.


How Airlines “Slim Down” Operating Costs


How much can an ounce cost you? Plenty. In the case of United Airlines, removing a single ounce from its in-flight magazine has translated to saving $290,000 a year. Yes, a single ounce can hit an airline with up to six digits in costs.


If thinner paper can have such an impact on your bottom line, then you can imagine the significant cost savings that can come from manufacturing lighter aerospace components. What’s the most lightweight solution for aircraft operators today? We have one word for you: plastics.


What Makes Plastics the Secret to Aircraft Fuel-Efficiency


Aluminum was popular during the “Golden Age of Aviation” because of its strength and durability as well as its lightness when compared to other metals like steel. As a result, many aircraft components have traditionally been metal, from aircraft interiors, to landing gear, aircraft engines and structural components.


Now consider the fact that polymer and composite materials can be up to ten times lighter than metal. It’s no wonder that as more thermoplastic materials come on the market and new manufacturing opportunities arise, metal replacement has been seen as one of the best opportunities to reduce airline weight.


How big is the impact of switching from aluminum to plastic parts like PEEK and ULTEM in aerospace applications? Operators can earn weight savings of up to 60%. This translates to lower lifetime fuel costs, reduced emissions and extended flight range for operators.


“Weighing” the Option of Plastics in Aerospace


Weight alone is a massive reason to consider thermoplastics for aerospace, but weight isn’t the only factor at play in material selection.


After all, wood is lighter than metal, but there’s a reason we don’t build spruce airframes like the first plane from the Wright brothers: it wouldn’t be safe today to fly a wooden plane! Aerospace components need to be able to survive in corrosive, harsh environments as well as provide resistance to high temperatures.


In other words, it’s crucial that your mission-critical components aren’t just lightweight, but also high-performing.


At AIP, we carefully apply our decades of material expertise to select the right material for your application’s needs. Remember that your aerospace plastics manufacturer should understand the unique demands of your industry and your application, and have experience machining the material you require.


Want to learn more about how AIP reduces costs for aircraft operators?

Read how machined polymer components can take a load off aircraft interiors in our aerospace case study.

Download our Case Study


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When design engineers need a custom-machined component for a project, many consider metals first for their strength and durability.  However, this is not the case anymore; metals are moving over as polymers and composites become a more sensible alternative for precision-machined, high-strength durable parts.  This is true across many industries, but especially in the aerospace and defense sectors.  In this article, we will explore the benefits of opting for a plastic material for mission-critical aerospace and defense parts.


Overall Benefits


Machined polymer and composite components are the most cost-effective solution compared to metal.


First, machined plastic parts are lighter and, therefore, provide immense advantages over metals by offering lower lifetime freight costs for equipment that is regularly transported or handled over the product’s lifetime. Furthermore, polymers allow lower power motors for moving parts due to lower frictional properties of polymer wear components compared to metals. The low frictional properties preserve the integrity of the part as well, which translates to less maintenance-related downtime. What does this mean for operators?  Equipment remains online longer doing what it’s supposed to do – produce profit and functionality.  Not only are plastics lighter, but they’re also less expensive than many raw metal materials used for parts. Plastics can be produced in faster cycles than metals, which helps keep manufacturing costs down as well.


At AIP, we can machine and deliver parts in as little as 10 business days.


Explore AIP’s Machining Capabilities


Plastics are more resistant to chemicals than their metal counterparts.


Without extensive and costly secondary finishes and coatings, metals are easily attacked by many common chemicals. Corrosion due to moisture or even dissimilar metals in close contact is also a major concern with metal components. Polymer and composite materials such as PEEK, Kynar, Teflon, and Polyethylene are impervious to some of the harshest chemicals. This allows for the manufacture and use of precision fluid handling components in the chemical and processing industries.  These parts would otherwise dissolve if they were manufactured from metal materials. Some polymer materials available for machining can withstand temperatures over 700°F (370°C).


Plastic parts do not require post-treatment finishing efforts, unlike metal.


Polymer and composites are both thermally and electrically insulating. Metallic components require special secondary processing and coating in order to achieve any sort of insulating properties. These secondary processes add cost to metallic components without offering the level of insulation offered by polymer materials. Plastic and composite components are also naturally corrosion resistant and experience no galvanic effects in a dissimilar metal scenario that require sheathing. Additionally, plastic materials are compounded with color before machining, eliminating the need for post-treatment finishing efforts such as painting.


Aerospace and Defense benefits graphic


Benefits to the Aerospace & Defense Sector


Polymers bring many advantages to the aerospace and defense industry, particularly in the form of weight-saving capabilities.  Let’s take a closer look at the benefits of precision machined mission-critical components.


  • Lightweight: Polymer and composite materials are up to ten times lighter than typical metals. A reduction in the weight of parts can have a huge impact on an aerospace company’s bottom line. For every pound of weight reduced on a plane, the airline can realize up to $15k per year in fuel cost reduction.


  • Corrosion-Resistant: Plastic materials handle far better than metals in chemically harsh environments. This increases the lifespan of the aircraft and avoids costly repairs brought about by corroding metal components an in-turn reducing MRO downtime provides for more operational time per aircraft per year.


  • Insulating and Radar Absorbent: Polymers are naturally radar-absorbent as well as thermally and electrically insulating.


  • Flame & Smoke Resistances: High-performance thermoplastics meet the stringent flame and smoke resistances required for aerospace applications.


Aerospace and Defense benefits graphic

Other Benefits for Aerospace and Defense


  • High Tensile Strength: Several lightweight thermoplastics can match the strength of metals, making them perfect for airplane equipment metal part replacement.


  • Flexibility & Impact Resistance: Polymers are resistant to impact damage, making them less prone to denting or cracking the way that metals do.


Plastics have a variety of unique attributes which place them above metals in terms of utility, cost-effectiveness and flexibility for precision-machined mission-critical components.  To learn more, search specific plastic materials and their applications per industry with our useful material search function.


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With over three decades of experience machining precision plastic and composite parts for the Aerospace & Defense industry, AIP Precision Machining knows that weight and strength are critical for your flight-ready hardware. That’s why we’ve carefully selected, machined, and tested all our thermoplastic materials to various aerospace industry standards. Our lightweight polymers and composites have stable chemical and corrosion resistance, as well as improved strength to weight ratios when compared to exotic alloys and non-ferrous metals. AIP’s polymer and composite materials maintain their properties even at high temperatures.


Read more on thermoplastic materials commonly used in the Aerospace & Defense industry for every day to mission-critical applications.





ULTEM-PEIULTEM has one of the highest dielectric strengths of any thermoplastic material, meaning it works very efficiently as an electrical insulator. Being resistant to both hot water and steam, ULTEM can withstand repeated cycles in a steam autoclave and can operate in high service temperature environments (340F or 170C).  ULTEM also has one of the lowest rates of thermal conductivity, allowing parts machined from ULTEM to act as thermal insulators.  ULTEM is FDA and NSF approved for both food and medical contact and therefore is an excellent choice for aircraft galley equipment such as ovens, microwaves and hot or cold beverage dispensing systems.  UL94 V-O flame rating with very low smoke output makes this material ideal for aircraft interior components.





CELAZOLE - PBICELAZOLE provides the highest mechanical properties of any thermoplastic above 400F (204C) and offers a continuous use operating temperature of 750F (399C). CELAZOLE has outstanding high-temperature mechanical properties for use in aircraft engines and other HOT section areas. This impressive lightweight material retains 100% tensile strength after being submerged in hydraulic fluid at 200°F for thirty days.







RYTON’s inherent fire retardancy, thermal stability and corrosion resistance makes it perfectly suited for aerospace applications, while its dimensional stability means even the most intricate parts can be molded from RYTON with very tight tolerances.  RYTON is typically used for injection molded parts, however, there is limited availability of extruded rod and plate for machining.







DURATRON PILike RYTON, VESPEL is dimensionally stable and has fantastic temperature resistance. It can operate uninterrupted from cryogenic temperatures to 550°F, with intermittent to 900°F. Thanks to its resistance to high wear and friction, VESPEL performs with excellence and longevity in severe environments—like those used in aerospace applications. VESPEL is a trademarked material of DuPont and can be provided in direct formed blanks or finished parts directly from DuPont.  AIP provides precision machined components from DuPont manufactured rod and plate stock.  VESPEL is typically used in high temperature and high-speed bearing and wear applications such as stator bushings.






TORLONDURATRON PAI’s extremely low coefficient of linear thermal expansion and high creep resistance deliver excellent dimensional stability over its entire service range. DURATRON PAI is an amorphous material with a Tg (glass transition temperature) of 537°F (280°C). DURATRON PAI stock shapes are post-cured using procedures developed jointly by BP Amoco under the TORLON trade name and Quadrant under the DURATRON trade name. A post-curing cycle is sometimes recommended for components fabricated from extruded shapes where optimization of chemical resistance and/or wear performance is required.  TOLRON parts are used in structural, wear and electrical aerospace applications.






TECHTRONTECHTRON has essentially zero moisture absorption which allows products manufactured from this material to maintain extreme dimensional and density stability. TECHTRON is highly chemical resistant allowing it to operate while submerged in harsh chemicals. It is inherently flame retardant and can be easily machined to close tolerances. It has a broader resistance to chemicals than most high-performing plastics and can work well as an alternative to PEEK at lower temperatures.





RADELWith high heat and high impact performance, RADEL delivers better impact resistance and chemical resistance than other sulfone based polymers, such as PSU and PEI. Its toughness and long-term hydrolytic stability means it performs well even under autoclave pressure.  RADEL R5500 meets the stringent aircraft flammability requirements of 14CFR Part 25, allowing the aircraft design engineer to provide lightweight, safe and aesthetically pleasing precision components for various aircraft interior layouts.  RADEL can be polished to a mirror finish and is FDA and NSF approved for food and beverage contact.






KEL-FKel-F is a winning combination of physical and mechanical properties, non-flammability, chemical resistance, near-zero moisture absorption and of course outstanding electrical properties. This stands out from other thermoplastic fluoropolymers, as only Kel-F has these characteristics in a useful temperature range of -400°F to +400°F. In addition, it has very low outgassing and offers extreme transmissivity for radar and microwave applications. Many aircraft and ground-based random applications use Kel-F.





PEEKPEEK can be used continuously to 480°F (250°C) and in hot water or steam without permanent loss in physical properties. For hostile environments, PEEK is a high strength alternative to fluoropolymers. PEEK carries a V-O flammability rating and exhibits very low smoke and toxic gas emission when exposed to flame. PEEK is an increasingly popular replacement for metal in the aerospace industry due to its lightweight nature, mechanical strength, creep and fatigue resistance, as well as its ease in processing. Its exceptional physical and thermal characteristics make it a versatile thermoplastic polymer in many aerospace applications.  AIP has provided flight control, fuel system, interior, engine and aerodynamic related PEEK components for various aircraft OEM and MRO providers worldwide.





KYNAR - PVDFAnother example of thermoplastic materials used in aerospace and defense is KYNAR, or PVDF. This polymer has impressive chemical resistance at ambient and elevated temperatures, as well as good thermomechanical and tensile strength. KYNAR is extremely durable due to its weather-ability and toughness even in the most severe environments. In addition to being flame-resistant, KYNAR is easy to machine, too. You can typically find KYNAR components in pipe fitting and various fuel or other fluid-related precision manifolds or connectors.






Click here to search our material data for more information or request a quote here.



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