Titanium Thruster Frame Machining for Precision Engineering with WayKen

WayKen’s expertise in CNC machining brought success to an engine thruster system project. See how we machined complex titanium thruster frames to meet different requirements.

At a Glance of the Project

ProductEngine Thruster Frame
ChallengesThin wall thickness, sidewall holes, difficulty to chamfer
TechnologyCNC turning, 5-axis machining
Surface FinishSandblasting
MaterialTitanium grade 5
Lead Time10 Business days

About Project

This project is a microsatellite and spacecraft thruster system project, powered by the engine, through the transmission system to the thruster, so as to achieve the flight vehicle taking off and flying.

The small thruster system requires lightweight, high strength, and heat resistance for extreme space environments. This requires a specialized and experienced manufacturer to produce them. Let’s take a look at how WayKen tackled this project.

Consider Machining Strategies

This is a cylindrical titanium frame with different details on the side. According to this structure, WayKen first considered using a lathe to roughly machine the outline shape. Then, a CNC 5-axis milling machine will be used to process features in different directions on the outer side.

In addition, due to the thin wall thickness of the engine thruster frame and material properties, anti-deformation treatment is necessary before finishing machining. Therefore, we chose to take CNC roughing the outer and inner diameters of the parts, then perform anti-deformation treatment, and finally refine details using a 5-axis machine.

Machining Keypoints and WayKen’s Solutions

Now that the overall machining strategy is chosen, let’s discuss the key points that need to be solved and their solutions:

Inconsistent Wall Thickness

In processing, WayKen focused on the part’s wall thickness as it impacted manufacturing feasibility and potential deformation.

In this project, the majority of the titanium framework features a wall thickness ranging from 2mm to 8mm. However, some certain structures are only 0.8mm wall thickness. As we know, unsupported thin-walled structures may be at risk of deformation and breakage during processing.

For the 0.8mm thick area, WayKen adopted two machining steps. Firstly, all structures on the inner and outer sides were processed to maintain a 2mm uniform end face. Then, milling the given areas from 2mm to 0.8mm. In order to prevent the thin wall broken, we made adjustments to the cutting path such as reduced feeding and slower cutting.

thin thickness of titanium frame

Buckles/Clips and Deep Holes

On the inside of this frame part, there are 6 buckles/clips with a depth of nearly 70mm and a thickness of 2mm. Each buckle/clip has a 2.4mm installation hole. Due to the features’ special structure, we need to use small-diameter end mills and custom fixtures for machining, which may result in chattering and overcut risks. Moreover, the high strength and difficult machinability of titanium further increase the manufacturing challenge.

WayKen optimized the process by modifying simulation programming and machining parameters, effectively preventing chatter and overcutting.

When machining these features, we also focused on the high tolerance – 70±0.05mm between the end face and the bottom of this frame part, which is the key to assembling other components. To ensure accurate tolerances, we completed the machining process in a single operation and located the datum well before machining.

clips and deep holes on the frame part

Process Sidewall Holes and Chamfer End Holes

The biggest challenge in this project was machining the sidewall holes and chamfering the end holes. Although using 5-axis machining technology, it was impossible to find a suitable machining angle due to obstructions from important features on other sidewalls and the other end face.

To address this, WayKen designed and optimized special fixtures for the project, so we perfectly machined these structures.

sidewall holes and end holes chamfer

Ensure Geometric Tolerances

In practical aerospace applications, this titanium frame requires assembly with other components. Therefore, hole position, part coaxiality, and surface profile precision are crucial for high-quality assembly.

frame part coaxiality and surface profile

Ensuring these accuracies can be challenging due to the risk of thin-walled deformation and stress effects of titanium. With WayKen’s extensive experience in titanium machining, we took measures to make it, including:

  • Rough machining first, followed by aging treatment to remove stress. Then finishing after dimensional stabilization.
  • For high-precision dimensions, we attempted to perform the single processing and use probes to detect accurate positions before machining.
  • When parts were finished, we inspected them by using specialized CMMs for geometric tolerances. To address difficulties in measuring GD&T with high precision, WayKen used Zeiss CMM equipment to ensure that machined parts meet requirement.


“I’m happy with the thruster frame. Awesome job! Thank you for machining the titanium frame so well and precisely that it matches the other components perfectly. At the same time, I’m glad the parts test went well.” The project engineer said.

With comprehensive manufacturing capabilities and a dedicated team, WayKen is your trusted CNC machining supplier, offering one-stop services from prototype to production. We are also constantly optimizing our production and inspection capabilities. If you would like to learn more about our CNC machining projects, please contact us and explore more detail.

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