LAKEWOOD, Colo. – June 28, 2022 –Primus Aerospace (“Primus”), a provider of highly complex, machined components and assembly solutions to the aerospace, defense, and space industry, sponsored by Angeles Equity Partners, LLC (“Angeles”), today announced the acquisition of Raloid Corporation (“Raloid”). Raloid machines critical components for several strategic defense programs. With the addition of Raloid, Primus further strengthens its position as a Tier 1 supplier in the defense industry. Raloid will continue to operate under its existing brand name.
“We are proud to add Raloid to the Primus platform. Raloid’s legacy of performance and capabilities make it an ideal addition to Primus,” said Nick McGrath, CFO of Primus Aerospace.
“The addition of Raloid represents a key step forward in our effort to become the leading Tier 1 supplier of critical machined components and subassemblies to the U.S. defense industry,” added Kyle Brengel, COO of Primus Aerospace.
Raloid offers value-added services, including precision component manufacturing, chemical plating, assembly and integration, non-destructive testing, and complete build-to-print program management. The company’s proficiency with exotic and hard metals has enabled it to manufacture high-complexity, tight-tolerance components and subassemblies for Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, and other leading defense contractors.
“The Raloid team is excited to join Primus. Our combined capabilities will yield great results for our customers and our nation’s military,” said Suzanne Daniels, President of Raloid. “I am confident that Raloid will help position Primus Aerospace for accelerated growth in support of our nation’s highest defense priorities.”
Raloid Corporation is a precision component manufacturer headquartered in Reisterstown, Maryland. Since 1964, Raloid has been machining components and subassemblies for aerospace, defense, and space platforms. Raloid is a sought-after supplier for government, aerospace, and defense companies who rely on timely delivery and precision parts. Raloid meets all International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) requirements. Raloid was recognized by Aerospace & Defense Review as a Top Defense Manufacturing Solutions Provider in 2021. Learn more online at http://www.raloid.com
About Primus Aerospace
Founded in 1998, Primus Aerospace produces complex machined components and integrated assemblies for the aerospace national defense and space sectors. Primus works directly with OEMs and Tier 1 aerospace, defense, and space companies to develop and implement manufacturing solutions for machined metal parts, with a special emphasis on complexity. Advanced manufacturing capabilities include wire EDM, 5-axis complex machining, electrical discharge machining, heat treatments, helium leak checking, and waterjet cutting for traditional and exotic materials used in hypersonic and space programs. Learn more online at https://primusaero.com/
About Angeles Equity Partners, LLC
Angeles Equity Partners, LLC is a specialist lower middle-market private equity investment firm with a consistent approach to transforming underperforming industrial businesses. The Angeles skill set drives the firm’s investment philosophy and, in its view, can help businesses reach their full potential. Learn more online at www.angelesequity.com.
If you would like more information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. This is not an offer or solicitation to sell securities.
Secure your company’s legacy. You spent decades building your company. Don’t let the hard days and long nights be only for the history books. Selling your machine shop allows the legacy of your machine shop to continue into the future. Trying to figure out if you should sell your machine shop or just close it down? Learn more below.
Current trajectory of “mom & pop” machine shops
The ~17,000 machine shops (NAICS 332710) in the United States form the basis of many advanced manufacturing industries (e.g., defense, space, aerospace, medical, semiconductor). These shops are primarily owned and run by their founders, many of which were formed during the 1960’s (space race and nuclear competition). With aging owners and unclear or uninterested family successors, many machine shops are just closing their doors (especially following the recent difficulties including COVID-19 work force challenges and Boeing 737MAX production pauses). California, Ohio, and Texas have the highest number of machine shops in the United States.
What factors should founders / owners of machine shops think about before deciding to sell?
Selling price tradeoff
Ease of transaction
Customer relationships & contracts
Age of your equipment & facility
Advantages of selling vs closing your shop
Profit from the hard work you expended winning and delivering parts for long term defense programs
America needs your production. With the many machine shops that closed during the pandemic, our country needs your production of machined components.
Keep your manufacturing team together – your workforce has spent years helping your shop succeed, continue to give them opportunities to work together by keeping the shop open.
Selling your machine shop will require a great deal of work during the sale process, but this final phase of owning the business will allow you to reap the maximum value for your hard work.
What does Primus look for in an acquired machine shop
$15M annual revenue
Production on stable or growing defense platforms (e.g., F-35, F-22, Javelin, GMLRS, FMU-139)
Well maintained & modern CNC machines
Dedicated & educated work force
Well developed and implemented QMS
Advantages of working with Primus to sell your aerospace & defense machine shop
Experienced leadership team – our executives know machine shops and what makes a build to print manufacturer successful. Trust your legacy to experience instead of the transaction being a first machine shop for a search fund or private equity fund. Much of our leadership team are military veterans and are ultra passionate about providing material support to war fighters.
Dedicated M&A team – in most transactions the most important aspects are speed and certainty of close. Our team of experienced Mergers and Acquisition professionals combined with outside resources will make the transaction as easy as possible. They understand the nuances of BTP machine shops and won’t be surprised by the nuances of a machine shop.
Access to capital – Primus’s equity backers and debt financing provide plenty of capital for the sale of your company as well as for all growth needs.
Machine shop specific resources – from a dedicated NPI team (process engineering, CNC programming, Qa support) to machinist-specific career paths & education, brining your machine shop into the Primus network will secure the future and promote growth.
Achieving high rate production of machined components requires raw materials that can keep pace with manufacturing. Primus Aerospace utilizes aluminum bar stock to supply CNC lathes for aerospace and defense production. Our purchasing, material handling, and operations teams are very familiar with the processes necessary to ensure steady production.
Example raw materials used for production CNC machined parts
7055 Aluminum Alloy – 7055 Aluminum (A7055) is a high strength heat-treatable aluminum alloy that it primarily used in aerospace & defense applications. It is primarily used for high stress parts and was originally formulated by Alcoa.
7075 Aluminum Alloy – 7075 Aluminum (A7075) is an aerospace alloy that is used in applications requiring high specific strength. It was first developed by the Japanese during World War II for use in the Mitsubishi A6M Zero Fighter.
17-4 Stainless Steel – 17-4 steel (SAE 630) is a chromium-nickel-copper steel alloy that is generally used in high strength and corrosion resistive applications for aerospace, nuclear, and chemical processing applications.
Invar – Invar (FeNi36 or 64FeNi) is a high-nickel iron alloy that is used in applications where minimal thermal expansion is needed. The alloy was invented by Swiss physicist Charles-Édouard Guillaume. It is often used in precision instruments, optical applications, and telescopes.
Materials supply chain prepares raw materials for machining
Raw component mines – raw inputs to the metal are sourced from mines around the world. For example, to produce aluminum, mines must extract and refine the minerals (e.g., corundum) to produce bauxite.
Raw component refining – Once the minerals are mined, they are then refined through mechanical and chemical processes into standardized chemistries. Many metal inputs require multiple refining and purification steps. For aluminum, the processes finally result in alumina.
Smelting mill – Inputs are heated to smelting temperatures in large furnaces to achieve chemically standard alloys (e.g., 6061 Aluminum) and are finished into ingots or billets. For the rest of the manufacturing value chain, the material will remain chemically the same.
Finishing mill – This step moves the standardized allow billet into it’s final shape and finish. For bar stock, the ingots will be heated and pressed through an extrusion mold to achieve the form needed for the CNC lathes. While many options exist for softer aluminum alloys, only specialty mills are capable of extruding harder 7000-series aluminum.
Distributor – Metals distributors act as intermediaries for end users who need smaller quantities than the mills are willing to produce. These distributors may stock metals to service short term demand (“spot purchase”) as well as coordinate the longer term delivery for on-going production. In many cases, the distributor may also perform value added services to further prepare the metal for CNC machining (see next bullet).
Intermediate processes (e.g., heat treating, precision grinding) – specialty bar stock often requires intermediate processing to prepare the raw material for CNC machining on a mill turn lathe or swiss screw machine. These processes will often harden the metal or tighten the tolerances around the extruded metal shape to within 0.001″.
Materials are processed prior to moving to CNC machine
Receive – all incoming raw materials are received in accordance with Primus Aerospace’s Quality Management System. This ensures that only the proper materials are received and that they are entered into our ERP correctly (against a previously placed PO). Material certifications (“certs” are collected at this time.
Inspect – Primus’s quality inspectors match up shipping documentation and certifications with the actual raw material. Additionally, they will perform any non-destructive material testing that is required by the work order.
Saw Cut – Bar stock from the supplying mill generally comes in 12 foot bars. While this length works great on our Swiss screw machines, our larger mill turn lathes need shorter bars to fit into their automated bar feeders. We utilize a CNC saw to cut the long raw material bars into shorter sections. For example, Primus will take a 12-foot section of aluminum bar stock and cut it into three 4 foot bars for use on a mill turn part.
Issue to job & stage – once the material is prepared, it will be loaded on a job-specific cart and issued to the work order for production. This ensures that the material is not used for any other application and includes a printed page showing where the material is headed.
Primus Aerospace offers a variety of value-added services in addition to CNC machining, providing a turnkey contract manufacturing solution to aerospace and defense OEMs and Tier 1 Suppliers. These additional services allow Primus to perform most manufacturing in-house, saving valuable time and money for our clients, while reducing supply chain disruption risk. These services include assembly, part finishing, design assistance, and heat treat / stress relief.
Aerospace and Defense Engineering Support
When Primus Aerospace receives a contract for a job, our engineering expertise allows us to work with customers to ensure that the work contracted to our shop gets completed. For pre-production aerospace and defense parts, this can include a design for manufacturability (DFM) study. Our process engineering team is highly involved throughout the pre-production / new product introduction (NPI) process, from selecting materials and CNC machines to planning outside processes. The time spent planning production ensures an efficient and repeatable process to machine high-precision aerospace parts.
Material Preparation for CNC Machining
When it comes time to begin machining, Primus offers much more than just precision 5-axis CNC milling and turning. We have a wire EDM to make precision cuts with ease – allowing creative production routing to save time and money. EDM is an electro thermal production process where an electrically charged metal wire uses the heat from electric current to cut through metal that is submerged in a de-ionized water environment. We use this process to not only machine production parts but to also remove metal powder bed fusion 3D printed parts from build plates (such as titanium 3D prints). This process can achieve accuracy up to a tenth of a thousandth of an inch (0.0001”) and is useful for creating advanced geometries out of exotic materials.
Primus Aerospace utilizes a large format water jet cutting center for creating near net shapes out of large metal plates. Water jet cutting accelerates erosion within selected regions of a metal sheet. Highly pressurized water is fed through a diamond or ruby nozzle into a mixing chamber where the pressure differential draws garnet grit into the water stream. The water-garnet mixture is projected at high pressure against the raw metal sheet. Primus Aerospace uses the waterjet table technology to cut a variety of metals including aluminum, steel, and titanium. Water jet cutting decreases CNC machining time by creating near net shapes as well as can create large sheet metal parts.
Primus Aerospace maintains internal heat treat capabilities for specific defense production parts. By bringing the heat treat special processes in-house, Primus is able to decrease supply chain variability and cut waste from the process. Our heat treatment ovens are used for stress relief, artificial aging, and annealing. When a part is heated and cooled in an environment such as metal 3D printing, internal stresses can build up due to thermal gradients created by the manufacturing process. Heat treatment is used to relieve these stresses by uniformly heating and cooling a part. Artificial aging is used to accelerate the change in properties experienced by a cast or forged metal part in a controlled manner. The controlled application of heat can cause the aging of a part to occur in a rapid manner by accelerating the aging process that occurs very slowly at room temperature. Annealing is the process of uniformly heating a metal or plastic polymer to a specific temperature, holding that temperature for a given period, and cooling the part to induce solid state phase change and cause controlled metal recrystallization. This process creates a uniform, small grain size reduces internal stresses allowing for improved ductility.
Primus Aerospace recently in-housed large bore honing to support an aerospace customer. This process uses abrasive stones to create precision surface finishes and tight-tolerance roundness on circular parts. Honing is integrated into the production sequence to create parts with qualities required for specific aerospace and defense applications (e.g., hydraulic housings). In-housing this process allowed Primus to provide a more turnkey aerospace manufacturing solution to the customer.
After all machining and outside processes are complete, Primus Aerospace is able to provide significant assembly capabilities, reducing requirements for our OEM customers. Primus Aerospace provides a top-notch assembly service to create finished, flight-ready aerospace components. Our services include but are not limited to:
Post-machining services allow Primus to provide Original Equipment Manufacturers and other Tier 1 suppliers with turnkey manufactured parts and assemblies that are ready to hit production or final assembly.
Quality throughout the turnkey manufacturing process
Throughout machining and value-added services, Primus’s AS9100-certified quality management system ensures adherence to specifications. Primus utilizes visual, borescope, and CMM inspection services to support end applications in variety of industries. Our quality assurance professionals are extremely skilled and experienced in operating in certified environment for our aerospace and defense customers. Primus has a systematic method for preventing and removing FOD (foreign objects and debris) from our manufactured products. Our quality management system ensures we meet customer specifications and standards.
At Primus Aerospace, we offer a variety of services including engineering expertise, precision CNC machining, Titanium Powder Bed Fusion 3D Printing, wire EDM cutting, water jet cutting, honing, an AS9100 certified quality management system, heat treatment, and a variety of assembly services to meet any job’s needs. We are ready to tackle any job in our state-of-the-art (and ITAR-compliant) manufacturing facilities.
CNC machinists are critical to manufacturing metal parts for the aerospace and defense industries and make up the backbone of Primus’s defense oriented machine shop.
A common misconception is that manufacturing in the United States is disappearing due to outsourcing to low-cost countries (LCC). However, there are actually over 12 million filled manufacturing jobs, and a growing list of open industrial positions. Manufacturing is the sixth largest employer in the US economy, and fabricated metal is one of the top three sub-sectors of manufacturing in our country . Due to the COVID-related “great resignation” and previous focus on white collar careers, a skilled labor shortage exists throughout the US. As the aerospace manufacturing sector gains momentum post-pandemic, the demand for CNC machinists in Colorado will continue to grow. Primus Aerospace provides an exciting and meaningful work environment and has a team of experienced machinists with a wealth practical machining experience. These machinists are the backbone of our company.
Primus Aerospace has two primary locations: an aerospace production machine shop in Lakewood, Colorado and Primus’s Paradigm Division located in Golden, Colorado. The Golden location is an aerospace-specific prototyping machine shop that focuses on low volume, high precision parts for space applications. The Lakewood facility primarily focuses on efficient production of high-volume parts for the Aerospace and Defense industry. Each of these locations require highly skilled individuals to make Aerospace manufacturing possible
CNC Machinist Interviews:
The remainder of this article includes interviews with five of Primus’s talented machinists , providing insight about how they got their start as machinists and the career paths they’ve taken.
David T. (Paradigm CNC Programmer) – David is a senior CNC machinist and programmer at Primus Aerospace’s Paradigm Division. He has worked at Primus for over 11 years and is currently one of the senior machinists at the Golden location. He started his career as a machinist when he was 20 years old at a casting machine shop in Michigan. At that shop, he machined large housings for heavy equipment and machine finished cast iron components. He then moved to Colorado, where he started working for Paradigm which later became Primus Aerospace. At Paradigm, he had the opportunity to learn through the practical manufacturing of a variety of aerospace parts. He started as a CNC machine operator working second shift production, but soon learned enough to perform CNC programming as well. Today, David works independently to create prototype and production parts for satellites and manned space craft. This involves both programming and running the 5-axis CNC machines to produce parts as well as working hand in hand with mechanical engineering and quality assurance colleagues.
Zach M. (Paradigm CNC Programmer) – Zach performs CNC machine operation, programming, and set-up at Primus’s Golden location. He has been with Primus Aerospace for 6 months and has been an asset to our team. He started his machinist career when he was 17 years old at a tool and die shop. Here, he turned and milled set up and production parts while also designing several prototypes. He studied design at Keene State College in New Hampshire and was a TA for both the CNC programming and manual machining classes. He capitalized on this experience and interned at a plastic injection molding company, worked as a set-up machinist, and performed design work before arriving at Primus Aerospace.
Andrew D (CNC Programmer and Process Engineer) – Andrew works as a senior CNC programmer, machinist, and Process Engineer for Primus Aerospace’s Paradigm Division. He has worked at the company for two years but has 19 years of experience in machining. He started at Warren Tech when he was 16 and landed his first job as a CNC operator with Primus (after completing his technical training). He eventually completed a pre-engineering degree at Red Rocks Community College and went on to manage a local machine shop while owning / operating a snowboard company. After 10 years, he became a process and design engineer at another machine shop before re-joining Primus Aerospace.
Kelby C. (CNC Operator) – Kelby works as a CNC machinist at Primus’s Lakewood location. He has been working for Primus for four years. Kelby started as a deburr (finishing) technician in February 2018 and was promoted to CNC operator in 2019. Prior to manufacturing, he was a farm hand and learned all his practical machining skills on the job at Primus Aerospace. Kelby is a critical part of our production line that supports defense products.
Michael N. (CNC Setup Operator) – Michael has been working for Primus for 10 months but has 20 years of manufacturing experience. He started off at Pueblo Community College in their Machining Technology program to learn the basics of machining. Since then, he’s had the opportunity to work for several manufacturing and engineering companies. Michael sets up and runs critical 5-axis parts for a defense munitions program and is transitioning to become a CNC programmer. Part of this transition includes taking Mastercam classes (paid for by Primus) and working directly with our engineering and programming teams.
Colorado machinist culture
The CNC machinists and CNC operators at the Lakewood facility focus primarily on efficiency while producing aerospace grade parts. While working, Kelby likes to keep his bench highly organized. When operating a CNC, he lays out all his equipment in the order in which he is going to use it and confirms every operation he does at least once. He also always makes sure to check all paperwork he is referencing and makes sure the equipment he is using is calibrated. Michael N., on the other hand, takes a more open approach. He relies on his 20 years of experience to do whatever is needed in a precise and efficient manner.
At the Golden location, the focus is mainly on precision one-off parts, as this facility typically deals with more complex parts that are to be produced at lower quantities. When David T. is making a part, he takes the time to look at the part drawing and makes a plan on how to meet the tightest tolerances specified on the sheet. He also plans on how to relieve material and establish datum features early and in one fixture, if possible. Zach M. spends significant time with the part drawing and material details. He takes the tolerancing into account when deciding tooling, feeds, speeds, and fixturing. He also creates most of the machining program before cutting any metal and is open to adjusting his program as he progresses through production. Andrew D., on the other hand, uses his machinist experience and the that of the team around him to create a generalized production plan that is unique to each part.
Here at Primus Aerospace, we are always looking to add talented individuals to our team. At our company, even the most experienced CNC machinist will be able to grow their skillset and learn from those around them. Aside from a terrific career opportunity, our parts contribute directly to our national security and are helping put humans back into space. In the words of David T., “The work we do at Primus contributes to changing the course of history. It feels good knowing that something I am contributing to is going to change the way humanity sees the world in the future.” Kelby enjoys his work for a different reason. For him, he likes the people the most. He has fostered great friendships with his coworkers, and in his eyes, everyone treats him like family. As a younger guy, he has the chance to work on interesting aerospace projects and learn new skills along the way. All our employees also get to call Colorado home and get the chance to explore the outdoors on their time off. Being a CNC machinist, operator, or programmer is clearly a challenging profession, but the team culture and cutting-edge production of Primus Aerospace makes the challenge more than worth it.
Primus Aerospace is developing a DoD Skillbridge / Career Skills Program (CSP) to assist transitioning service members start a career as a CNC machinist. Additional
details will be forthcoming but Primus Aerospace is excited to begin working with patriots transitioning from the US Army, US Navy, US Air Force, and US Marine Corps who are interested in CNC machinist careers in Colorado. Primus Aerospace offers a training course for transitioning service members to help start veterans on their machinist career.
Participation in DoD Skillbridge programs is open to all veterans, including service-disabled veterans. Completing the machinist Skillbridge internship with Primus Aerospace is intended to arm veterans with the knowledge and experience to start their career as a CNC machinist.
While all service members will be welcome to apply, we are especially excited to work with transitioning service members with technical ability / interest. This includes:
Space-based military applications are becoming increasingly important as orbital international competition and capabilities increase. Complex machining and turnkey manufacturing are essential to enabling collaboration between the private sector and US government to compete in the modern space race.
In the past decade, the realm of space has been revolutionized. Technologies such as reusable rocket engines, high complexity machining techniques, increasingly fuel efficient launch techniques, and new space-age materials have thrusted us into a new age of space exploration. With these innovations, comes a new set of national security challenges. New space players, such as China and India, are looking to make a foothold in Earth’s orbit with satellites and space stations of their own, and this will inherently result in conflict at various scales. America must find a way to protect its assets in space and secure a foothold to continue to explore new frontiers in the future and continue to enjoy current technologies enabled by space.
International trends in military space
Space militarization is not a new concept. The Cold War era space race between the United States and the Soviet Union was the first instance of this concept. Both nations raced to achieve superior spaceflight capability, and this period resulted in a leap in mankind’s technological capabilities without resulting in direct conflict. The realm of space was used by America to establish the Global Positioning System (GPS) and to conduct reconnaissance on the Soviet Union. The Soviets utilized space in a comparable manner by developing GLONASS (a technology similar to GPS), and by performing their own surveillance on the United States. From these basic beginnings of the military’s use of space, much evolution and development has occurred.
On March 27th, 2019, India announced that they had successfully tested an anti-satellite weapons system. It struck and destroyed an Indian Microsat-R satellite in a test flight that lasted about half a minute. The satellite in question had a surface area of two square meters and was flying at an altitude of 282 kilometers (925,197 feet) . Similarly, China fired on and destroyed one of its own satellites in 2007 demonstrating its ability to use ASAT, or anti-satellite, weapons. By doing so, they showed the world that the nation has a capable and rapidly growing space program . In the event of a conflict with China or India, anti-satellite weapons (ASATs) could wreak havoc on our military’s SATCOM capabilities as well impact our strategic reconnaissance assets. This could seriously hinder military efforts and be a major threat to national security.
China has also established a Strategic Support Force which focuses in part on the development of the nation’s space program . This in combination with China’s Tiangong space station, which is currently housing a crew of three astronauts, makes them a major threat to the United States. Iran also launched its first military satellite into low Earth orbit and announced its military space program on April 22, 2020, introducing another major player in extraterrestrial military operations . All these recent events clearly show that the era of U.S. and Russian space superiority is over. The United States must take serious steps to protect its assets in space.
US response to growing space threats
In response to these growing threats, the United States Space Force was established on December 20, 2019. This is a distinct branch of the armed services organized under the Air Force and its primary mission is to maintain, protect, and expand the fleet of advanced military satellites that form the backbone of U.S. global military operations . The United States have also been developing a space-based sensor system to detect and locate hypersonic missiles targeted at United States Satellites. There has also been research into a space-based ballistic missile interceptor and a directed energy weapon primarily used for intercepting incoming missiles . This is crucial due to the nature of hypersonic missiles. Because these weapons move at five times the speed of sound and have the capability to maneuver in a manner like a cruise missile for the entire duration of its flight, early detection and termination of these weapons is critical.
Considering China and Russia’s space-based offensive capabilities, low earth orbit military satellite constellations have become an attractive defense strategy. Traditional military satellites orbit the Earth at an altitude of 600 to 12,000 miles and are extremely expensive to replace. Low earth orbit satellite constellations, on the other hand, show potential to get military hardware into space at a much lower cost. Constellations are also more difficult to eliminate considering they are made up of a large fleet of satellites (often into the hundreds of individual units). An enemy would have to destroy copious quantities of these satellites to render military surveillance and communications useless. In contrast, it would only take a small number of attacks to eliminate our current military orbital infrastructure. DARPA (the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), and Lockheed Martin are currently developing this technology under Project Blackjack . To achieve our nation’s goals in space we must progress our current technologies to meet the challenge of intercepting ASATs and hypersonic missiles, but we cannot neglect manufacturing new satellites and weapon defense systems in a precise, reliable, adaptable, and cost-effective manner. This is where Primus Aerospace’s expertise in turnkey manufacturing can be an asset to any defense contractor.
Manufacturing for defense space applications
Traditionally, manufacturers only oversee a small portion of a component’s fabrication because they specialize in that given area. Primus is unique because we handle programming, machining, assembly, quality assurance, and hand finishing all in-house. This allows our aerospace machine shop to be flexible to design changes, which are extremely common in the process of developing modern technologies for contract manufacturing. We also have a wealth of experience in manufacturing for defense projects, including weapons systems, missiles, rockets, aerostructures, hydraulics, actuators, landing gears, space systems, and satellites. We regularly work with aerospace primes to develop manufacturing systems that support the development of prototypes and rate production for sensitive programs. This experience will allow us to transition smoothly into the production of space specific military components.
Because of the development of military satellite constellations, our nation’s capacity for manufacturing aerospace grade components must also increase. This takes a combination of talented engineers, CNC programmers, machinists, and quality inspectors that few aerospace machine shops employ. Primus can produce high complexity, tight tolerance parts at scale and regularly works on ITAR (International Traffic in Arms Regulations) projects. In addition to this, we have working relationships with value added providers that support our manufacturing capacity with services such as plating, passivation, heat treatment, and anodization. Because of these factors, Primus Aerospace would be an asset to Project Blackjack and future programs like it.
Due to the nature of aerospace, parts must be as light as possible to save on cost. This requires minimalist design with structure in high stress areas, excellent surface finish to avoid fatigue failure due to stress concentration, and weight saving cut-outs in less critical areas. Because of Primus Aerospace’s precision machining capabilities, these design features can become a physical reality. In addition to all these factors, complicated aerospace parts must be made in rapid succession to replace damaged equipment in the hazardous and debris ridden environment that satellites inhabit. Primus Aerospace’s manufacturing prowess and advanced machinery allows for rate production of high complexity parts that can conquer the challenges that space militarization imposes on manufacturing.
One 5-axis CNC Machine on our shop floor that highlights our manufacturing capabilities is our DMG Mori DMU 125 P duoBLOCK. This machine can perform milling and turning in a single setup with part rotational speeds up to 500 RPM. The DMU also has 453 tool pockets, maximum X and Y travels of 49.2 inches, a maximum Z travel of 39.4 inches, a maximum workpiece diameter of 49.2 inches, and a maximum workpiece height of 63 inches. This machine also has exceptional accuracy due to a completely water-cooled feed drive and the incorporation of a spindle growth system. The system measures the thermal and centrifugal force extension of the spindle and provides feedback to the CNC to compensate for this positional error. These capabilities allow Primus to manufacture large, extremely complex parts with limited fixturing on a single machine .
It has come extremely clear to the defense community that the threat of an attack on United States space infrastructure is imminent. We must take steps as a nation to mitigate this risk. This can be done by increasing funding to the Air Force and Space Force, increasing public awareness of the issue, developing new technologies to strengthen our defenses against ASATs and hypersonic platforms, and increasing our aerospace manufacturing capabilities. It is a matter of national defense that can potentially save the lives of the men and women in our armed forces. Primus Aerospace is proud to be directly involved in the retooling of our space infrastructure.
My name is Josh Trujillo and I am a rising senior in the Colorado School of Mines Mechanical Engineering Department. I recently completed an internship with Primus Aerospace’s Paradigm Division as a Process Engineer.
My story with Primus Aerospace started when Gary Vallencourt, the Vice President of Primus Aerospace Paradigm Division, was bitten by a rattlesnake while paragliding. My stepmom, who owns Tonic Trails – a massage therapy and holistic medicine practice in Golden, Colorado, treated his swelling on short notice. Following the treatment, she got me in touch with Gary, helped me secure an engineering internship for summer 2021. That rattle snake unknowingly gave me a huge opportunity that I was not about to let slip through my fingers.
I was initially drawn to the field of mechanical engineering from my love of solving mechanical problems. I grew up riding mountain bikes and wanted to better understand what went into making such a complex system so I could fix my bike more effectively. My high school physics class further reinforced my desire to become a mechanical engineer as I found the study of motion extremely interesting (and I seem to have natural ability in the field). Since childhood, I’ve had a nascent interest in aerospace, but seeing a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launch from Kennedy Space Center inspired me to chase my dream.
Going into the summer, I was excited to gain hands-on experience as a process engineer. I also had no idea what exactly my job was going to entail. In my head, I would either be making meaningful contributions to the company or getting Narate, my boss, coffee all summer. On my first day, I quickly realized that even though I was qualified to work there, I had a lot to learn. I expected to jump right in and be on par with the other engineers because I had extensive experience with CAD (Computer Automated Design) and was machine shop certified through the Colorado School of Mines.
In reality, I was quite novice at most of my daily tasks, when compared to Narate, a professional process engineer, and the machinists. Most of these skilled workers had spent at least 10 years mastering CNC programming, set up, and operation. I was playing well above my weight class, but I would not let this discourage me. To learn the nuances of advanced aerospace manufacturing, I shadowed Narate for my first week. He gave me simple tasks at first, like renaming files, running a gas line, and ordering and installing a gas regulator for Primus’s new Velo3D Sapphire titanium 3D printer.
I then moved on to deburring intake manifolds for an in-use rocket engine, which would be used on an upcoming space mission. Deburring machined parts is an important, yet tedious task, that removes small nicks and imperfections from a completed part. As I demonstrated my ability to read engineering plans and complete final finishing tasks, I earned the team’s trust to move on to higher level tasks. This let me begin setting up and operating CNC machines, learning basic CAM (Computer Automated Machining), and modifying CAD designed parts for 3D printing.
Here is a short list of a few things I accomplished during this stage of my internship:
Designed and CNC machined a bracket to mount the argon regulator I previously ordered to the wall of the shop.
Operated a 5-axis CNC machine to create ballasts for a satellite.
Made modifications to parts to allow them to be printed in a metal powder bed fusion 3D printer.
Performed basic set-up and calibration for the 3D printer.
Basic CNC set up and operation for facing operations in support of the 3D printer.
Modified, sliced, and printed several components for a mid-air airplane refueling station.
Designed and 3D printed a custom bottle opener.
Designed several fixtures for testing and manufacturing of various components.
Before I knew it, I was performing the daily operations of a process engineer by planning the top-to-bottom production of several space satellite components and aerospace 3D printed parts. This was not only a great experience, but also extremely rewarding – considering my skill set at the beginning of the summer. This progression would not have been possible without the guidance of my summer mentor, Narate. He greatly improved my design, engineering, CAD, and machining skills throughout the summer. Andy, the lead machinist, and the rest of the machinists in the shop also helped me a lot when it came to CNC operation and machining. These guys are all extremely skilled and I learned a great deal just by watching them work. John and Antonio, Primus’s quality inspectors, showed me some of the measuring and quality inspection techniques that allow machinists to feel confident in their machined aerospace parts. I felt as if everyone at Primus had my back and went out of their way to make me a part of the team. They included me in company potlucks, took me go-carting, and got to know me during down periods in the shop. I am very grateful to Gary and the Primus team for this opportunity, and look forward to future full-time opportunities at Primus!
Josh Trujillo is a Mechanical Engineering Student at the Colorado School of Mines.
Hypersonic weapons are missiles that travel at speeds in excess of Mach 5 (five times the speed of sound). These extreme speeds are intended to make them very difficult to intercept and able to surprise an enemy with a precision strike. They also differ from ballistic missiles in that hypersonic weapons utilize a very ‘flat’ target trajectory and are intended to be maneuverable throughout their flight.
Hypersonic weapons generally fall into two broader categories:
Hypersonic Glide Vehicles (HGV) – HGVs are launched from a rocket and then enter hypersonic travel in a glide phase
Hypersonic Cruise Missiles (HCM) – HCMs are self-powered by scramjet engines when towards their target
Hypersonic weapons are of military interest because their high speed, maneuverability, and low trajectory make them very difficult to detect by terrestrial-based radar systems until much later in the weapon system’s flight. This late detection further complicates the command and control decisions as well as the challenge of technical interception of the weapon.
Most conventional hypersonic weapons utilize kinetic energy which is the energy generated by the weapon system’s extreme speed to destroy its target. Certain Chinese and Russian hypersonic weapons are intended to carry nuclear payloads.
Hypersonic weapons are of interest to the U.S. military because they provide the ability to rapidly attack targets with minimal chance of interception / defeat. Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (VC-JCS) General John Hyten categorized the need for “responsive, long-range, strike options against distant, defended, and/or time-critical threats when other forces are unavailable, denied access, or not preferred.” Additionally, the growing hypersonic capabilities within the militaries of near-peer countries (e.g. China, Russia) creates the need for a similar capability within the U.S. military.
What are examples of U.S. hypersonic weapon programs?
Multiple U.S. military branches are pursuing hypersonic programs, including:
Long-Range Hypersonic Weapon (LRHW)
Conventional Prompt Strike (CPS)
US Air Force
AGM-183 Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW)
Hypersonic Attack Cruise Missile (HACM)
Expendable Hypersonic Air Breathing Multi-Mission Demonstrator Program
Hypersonic Defense Regional Glide Phase Weapons System interceptor
Where do hypersonic weapons sit in their development curve?
In the United States, hypersonic weapon systems are in a relatively early state of development. While the idea of hypersonic munitions has been around for quite some time, serious investment in technology and operational products only began our of haste in 2018. Some of the technology development has surrounded ramjet engines capable of Mach 5+ travel while other efforts have focused on the materials required to sustain extreme temperature fluctuations while remaining lightweight and strong. With multiple branches of the U.S. military pursuing slight variations of hypersonic missiles for their own branch needs, the entire breadth of the defense industry is engaged in the development of these systems within the United States.
The American defense establishment is limited by a few key factors on the trajectory towards operational hypersonic weapons:
Limited test facility and ranges
Limited supply chain capable of producing high tolerance, complex components using exotic materials
Long-range flight test corridors
As of this article, the U.S. Military and defense prime contractors are actively testing prototype hypersonic weapons across the full range of programs.
How are hypersonic weapons made?
While the exact manufacturing processes and engineering designs remain classified, the basic manufacturing process is similar to other aerospace and defense programs. The United States Department of Defense establishes the requirements (in this case for hypersonic weapons) and then defense primes and aerospace original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) bid on the work. Once a Prime and/or OEM is selected to produce the weapon, it is then up to that company to develop a manufacturing program and supply chain to support it. In most cases, Primes and OEMs work with contracted machining suppliers and/or aerospace component manufacturers experienced in complex machining to produce the high-tolerance parts that form the backbone of the hypersonic weapon. Other supply chain partners focus on electronic components, fasteners, carbon fiber components, controls, and aerodynamic surfaces. These suppliers (known as Tier I and II Suppliers) produce components and assemblies that are ultimately assembled into the finished hypersonic missile by the Prime / OEM and destined
for the U.S. Government.
Which American defense suppliers (OEMs) are involved in manufacturing hypersonic systems?
What are unique considerations for manufacturing parts and components which support hypersonic weapons?
The supply chain for hypersonic weapon development and production is similar to that of other high-performance defense systems. Key considerations for these suppliers include:
Rapid prototyping and development capability – As designers and engineers work through the initial design iterations, suppliers must be configured to produce prototype / Low-Rate Initial Production (LRIP) parts rapidly and accurately.
Ultra-high precision, complex machining – The high-velocity speeds of hypersonic systems requires high-tolerance components and assemblies to prevent failure during their use. These aerospace grade parts must be manufactured to exacting specifications and validated through stringent quality processes. Tolerances in the thousandths and millionths of an inch for linear, positional, and circular dimensions are common within hypersonic components.
Ability to work with unique, exotic materials for heat tolerance and weight reduction – Hypersonic platforms and weapons experience extreme temperature fluctuations due to the speed and air friction they create. Additionally, the ability to achieve stable hypersonic speeds (Mach 5+) requires ultralight but extremely durable materials. These engineering challenges require contract manufacturers who can work with exotic alloys and materials such as Titanium, Inconel and Tantalum. In fact, the U.S. Air Force is currently sourcing carbon composite producers to develop a supply chain for production rates of ultra-lightweight structural components for hypersonic weapons.
Suppliers configured for defense-specific security – It’s “no secret” that information and technical security is an essential part of delivering defense projects. Hypersonic projects require the highest levels of data security throughout their engineering and supply chain. The top defense suppliers (even Tier I and Tier II) must have extensive compliance experience with ITAR and relevant DFARS regulations. Additionally, hypersonic component suppliers should comply with the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) framework, accredited by an outside organization.
Primus Aerospace is a leading provider of high-precision, high-complexity machined components and assemblies for the aerospace, defense and space industries and a leading manufacturing partner to aerospace, defense & space OEMs / Primes & Tier I suppliers worldwide. Established in 1989, Primus Aerospace has grown into a vertically-integrated manufacturing operation that is strategically headquartered in Colorado and serves customers in North America, Europe, and the Middle East with a broad range of complex manufacturing, assembly, integration, and value-added services, including design & engineering support, program management and secondary manufacturing & processing capabilities. The company’s strategic focus is directed towards advanced manufacturing capabilities, automation & robotics integration and technical resources to drive turnkey solutions & world-class service for its customers. Primus Aerospace offers a broad array of build-to-print manufacturing and integration services, including multi-axis, complex machining, mechanical and electrical assembly, 3D titanium printing, water jet cutting, EDM, testing and design support. Primus is committed to delivering the most complex & critical solutions to the Aerospace & Defense industry by aligning capabilities and processes with the market’s evolving needs.