Casting Process Saves Time and Money at Lockheed Martin
(PR Newswire; 07/24/98)
FORT WORTH, Texas, July 24 /PRNewswire/ The Metals Group of the
Advanced Affordability Initiative at Lockheed Martin Tactical Aircraft
Systems has been evaluating a process to reduce airframe assembly costs,
and the early prognosis is good. Known as "aluminum investment casting," it
is a process of melting aluminum and pouring it into a mold to create
large, unitized assemblies.
The process does away with the need for sawing, stretch forming, machining,
drilling and fastening to make an assembly. Lockheed Martin is looking to
apply the process to support affordability goals for future aircraft such
as the Joint Strike Fighter.
The forward equipment bay of the F-16 was chosen to demonstrate and
validate the use of the casting technology. "We chose this assembly because
it was a good example of how we could replace a number of costly, time-
consuming fabrication and assembly steps with a single casting," said J.T.
Amin, lead for this initiative. "Under the conventional process, assembling
a forward equipment bay entails drilling and fastening almost 150 design
details. With the casting process, that is no longer necessary. Also, we
were able to incorporate 73 design details into one single casting design."
The casting was produced by Cercast, Inc., of Canada, owner of a new
pouring and rapid solidification technique used in the process. The pouring
and the rapid solidification technique is known as "Sophia Process" in the
industry. Through a rapid prototyping method using stereolithography,
Cercast was able to build the part quickly from computer-generated design
databases. "The fabrication of the casting posed numerous challenges for
Cercast," said Amin. "Given its size and complexity, the assembly is a
first for aluminum investment casting. Yet despite this challenge, Cercast
produced the casting in 12 weeks versus more than a year using conventional
According to Ken Taylor, director of the Advanced Affordability Initiative
at Tactical Aircraft Systems, "Aluminum investment casting meets two
objectives of the metals program. First, it demonstrates the viability of
producing large, single-unit aircraft substructures with this process.
Second, it collects cost data of producing similar castings in a production
Preliminary cost estimates indicate a savings of 15 to 20 percent over
current processes. "Investment casting gives us the potential to make a
significant contribution towards the goal of making our fighter aircraft
more affordable, not only with current programs, but with future ones as
well, such as the Joint Strike Fighter," said Amin.
In addition to the cost savings, investment casting also improves quality
because unitized construction can eliminate potential fatigue problems
associated with the numerous fastener holes required for assembling detail
parts. Moreover, the designer can create shapes that are normally very
difficult or impossible to machine. Shapes of this type improve load
distribution and ultimate strength.
Lockheed Martin's Fort Worth plant produces the F-16 for the U.S. Air Force
and a number of foreign countries and is leading Lockheed Martin's Joint
Strike Fighter team. It also produces the mid-fuselage for the F-22
aircraft and is participating in production of Japan's F-2 fighter.
For more information about LMTAS and its products, visit the following
SOURCE Lockheeed Martin Tactical Aircraft Systems
/CONTACT: Lance Lamberton of Lockheed Martin Tactical Aircraft Systems,
817-777-4100, or e-mail: lance.c.lambertonlmco.com/
/Company News On-Call: http://www.prnewswire.com or fax, 800-758-5804, ext.
/Web site: http://www.lmtas.com/
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