Aerospace Materials: How to Choose the Right Tooling Components

In the high-stakes aerospace world, choosing the best material for your components isn't just important – it's essential for safety and success. Aerospace parts face some of the harshest conditions, from extreme temperatures to heavy loads and corrosive environments. Materials used in planes need to be more than just strong; they need to be resilient, capable of withstanding intense heat, and durable against wear and tear.

The unique challenges of aerospace test the limits of materials, pushing the boundaries of engineering and design. Whether dealing with the cold void of space or the frictional heat of re-entry, every component's material must be carefully selected to ensure it can perform reliably under pressure. It's a delicate balance, finding materials that meet these rigorous demands without compromising the aircraft's performance or safety.

Carr Lane Mfg. has extensive experience in the aerospace industry, manufacturing high-quality tools specifically designed for aerospace applications that provide precision, efficiency, and reliability. In this article, Carr Lane Mfg. explores the various materials used in aerospace tooling and components and how to find the best tooling material for your aerospace application.

What Materials Are Used in Aerospace Tooling and Components?

Tooling is pivotal in the aerospace industry, serving as the backbone of manufacturing, maintenance, and repair operations. These specialized tools and fixtures are essential for creating intricate and highly reliable aircraft components.

In aerospace, three primary materials are used for their reliability, performance, and adaptability: metals, composites, and plastics/polymers. Each of these categories of materials brings unique properties, offering solutions to the demanding requirements of aerospace applications.


Metals are the most traditional and widely used materials in aerospace tooling, known for their durability and strength. These materials form the foundation of many aerospace components and operations due to their heat resistance. Typical metals used in aerospace include:

  • Aluminum: Renowned for its lightweight and corrosion-resistant properties, aluminum is frequently used in jigs and fixtures, making it a staple in aerospace tooling for its ease of handling and resistance to environmental factors.
  • Titanium: With an exceptional strength-to-weight ratio and corrosion resistance, titanium is often selected for high-performance tooling applications. Its durability under stress makes it ideal for critical aerospace components.
  • High-Temperature Alloys: These alloys are designed to withstand extreme temperatures and pressures. They are essential for parts exposed to high heat and stressful conditions, such as engine components and exhaust systems. A standard alloy used in aerospace tooling is Inconel, or nickel-based alloy, which Carr Lane Mfg. uses in our ON-SIZE® bushings.


Composite materials, created by combining two or more distinct materials to harness their unique properties, have revolutionized aerospace tooling and components. They offer a combination of strength, lightness, and resilience that metals alone cannot provide. Standard composites used in aerospace applications include: 

  • Carbon Fiber: Exceptionally strong and lightweight, carbon fiber is highly resistant to fatigue and corrosion. Its elasticity allows it to handle high stress without deformation, making it ideal for aerospace applications.
  • Fiberglass: This material is favored in non-critical tooling applications due to its cost-effectiveness and ease of manufacturing. While it may not match the strength of carbon fiber, fiberglass provides a good balance of performance and affordability for less demanding aerospace applications.

Plastics and Polymers

With the introduction of additive manufacturing (industrial 3D printing), plastics and polymers have seen a surge in their use within the aerospace industry, particularly in tooling and component fabrication. These materials offer versatility and efficiency in manufacturing processes. The standard polymer used in aerospace tooling is PEEK.

Distinguished by its high temperature and chemical resistance, PEEK is increasingly used in the aerospace sector for brackets, clips, fasteners, and other structural components. Its robustness and versatility make it an excellent choice for a wide range of aerospace tooling.

Selecting the Right Material in Aerospace Applications

The selection process is critical to ensuring aerospace component safety, performance and longevity. Here's how this decision-making process often unfolds:

    1. Understanding Application Requirements: The first step in selecting the suitable material involves a detailed analysis of the application's requirements. This includes environmental conditions, mechanical loads, and manufacturing processes. It's essential to ensure the material you choose is compatible with the manufacturing processes it will undergo, can withstand the stresses, tension, and fatigue the application will involve, and will protect against high temperatures, corrosion, or radiation.
    1. Material Properties and Performance: After understanding the application's requirements, the next step is to compare material properties to find the best fit. Consider the material's strength, temperature resistance, weight, cost, raw material costs, and the associated manufacturing expenses.
    2. Certifications and Aerospace Standards: Finally, ensuring that the materials and manufacturing processes they undergo meet stringent aerospace standards and certifications is essential. Quality certifications like AS9100 are designed for the aerospace industry, emphasizing quality management that ensures consistency and reliability. Safety standards and regulations must also be followed. Materials and components must also be approved by relevant aerospace authorities or governing bodies in many cases.

Carr Lane Mfg. prioritizes quality and reliability in all our aerospace tooling, maintaining ISO 9001:2015 certification for nearly 30 years. Beyond our certifications, Carr Lane Mfg. has extensive experience in the aerospace industry, allowing us to provide expert recommendations for the best tooling and materials per application.

Expert Tips for Choosing the Best Tooling Material

Selecting the best tooling for aerospace applications is a critical decision that can significantly impact the end product's performance, durability, and cost-effectiveness. To navigate this complex selection process effectively, here are some expert tips from the pros at Carr Lane Mfg. that can help you make the most informed choice:

Consult with Experts

Material scientists and engineers, especially those with specific experience in aerospace tooling and applications, can provide the knowledge and insights to select the most suitable material for your needs. Carr Lane Mfg. specializes in manufacturing components for aerospace applications, and our experts can provide tailored advice based on the unique requirements of your project.

Consider the Total Cost of Ownership

When selecting a material, looking beyond the initial expense and considering the total cost of ownership (TCO) is essential. This includes evaluating the material's lifespan and the costs associated with maintenance, repairs, and potential downtime. A material that may seem more expensive upfront could offer greater value over its lifetime due to lower maintenance costs and more extended durability, making it a most cost-effective investment in the long run.

Leverage Advanced Manufacturing Techniques

Advanced manufacturing techniques, mainly additive manufacturing (3D printing), have expanded material selection and application possibilities. These techniques not only broaden the range of material options but can also reduce waste, lower manufacturing costs, and create complex geometries that enhance the functionality and performance of aerospace components.

Find the Perfect Tooling for Your Aerospace Application at Carr Lane Mfg.

The careful selection of materials for aerospace tooling is more than just a technical necessity; it's a strategic decision that significantly impacts aerospace operations' performance, safety, and cost-efficiency. When designed with the right materials, aerospace components can withstand dangerous environments and contribute to aerospace projects' overall reliability and success.

At Carr Lane Mfg., we create high-quality jigs, fixtures, locators, and more specifically designed for the aerospace industry. Many of our products are made with 2024, 6061, and 7075 aluminum, known for exceptional strength and remarkable fatigue resistance. We also utilize Invar 36, a 36% nickel-iron alloy with an extremely low Thermal Expansion Coefficient. Additionally, stainless steel 303, 17-4PH, and 4130 steel are all common materials used in our components to provide maximum resistance and toughness.

Our team of experts is always ready to provide you with the guidance and information you need to select the best tooling solutions for your aerospace applications. Whether you're in the early stages of design or are looking to optimize an existing system, Carr Lane Mfg. is your partner in achieving aerospace excellence. We encourage you to browse our product catalog for more information about our high-quality tooling solutions. When you're ready to find the best components for your application, contact us, and together, we can ensure you achieve the highest standards of performance, safety, and cost-effectiveness.

Discuss Your Aerospace Needs with Carr Lane