Lockheed Martin Opens Laser Direct Manufacturing Facility at Fort Worth Plant
Fort Worth, Texas, February 25th, 1999 -- Lockheed Martin Tactical Aircraft Systems announced today the opening of a new laser direct manufacturing research facility located on the factory floor of its Fort Worth plant. The facility uses robotically controlled lasers and metal powder to create custom three-dimensional parts in a process much like welding.
This promising new technology has been in development for the last six years at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, N.M. The impetus for its development was a desire on the part of a wide range of manufacturing companies to produce an automated industrial tool to build complicated metal parts that would be difficult or expensive to machine conventionally.
"The potential savings in cost and time is dramatic," said Brian Rosenberger, team lead for the facility. "Not only will this technology allow us to do in two weeks what now takes many months, but it will also enable us to make one part out of what takes hundreds of pieces using conventional technology. Moving to unitized parts will improve the structural integrity and reduce the weight of our products."
Eighteen months ago a consortium was formed at Sandia National Laboratories under a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) to develop the Laser Engineered Net Shape (LENS) process. Members of the consortium range from Fortune 500 companies to recent start-ups. They include AeroMet Corp.; AlliedSignal, Inc.; Eastman Kodak Company; Ford Motor Company; Hasbro, Inc.; Laser Fare, Inc.; Lockheed Martin Corp.; MTS Systems Corp.; 3M Company; Optomec Design Company; Teleflex, Inc.; and Wyman-Gordon Company. Most of the research and development of LENS has up to now taken place at Sandia National Laboratories. Sandia, which is managed by Lockheed Martin Corp. for the Department of Energy, has major research and development responsibilities in national security, energy, and environmental technologies.
"Opening this facility at our Fort Worth plant will bring LENS research from a laboratory environment into a production environment, hastening our ability to apply the technology to the making of real parts for real airplanes," said Rosenberger. "The lessons learned in our research will be shared with the other consortium members."
Dain Hancock, president of Tactical Aircraft Systems. In his remarks at a ceremony announcing the facility's opening, said: "We believe laser direct manufacturing is an exciting technology with great potential for significantly reducing the costs and time required to build air vehicle structures and systems. As we enter the 21st century, tactical aircraft acquisition is being dominated by affordability. It becomes imperative to break the traditional paradigms of design and manufacture and look for truly revolutionary changes."
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. The company also produces the F-22's mid-fuselage section, is responsible for various subsystems of the air dominance fighter and is participating in the production of Japan's F-2 fighter, which incorporates extensive use of advanced materials technologies.