Back in May 2022,
President Joe Biden announced the formation of AM Forward, an alliance to support smaller domestic suppliers in expanding their use of 3D printing, along with five major American manufacturers.
Lockheed Martin was one of the first OEMs to take part (NYSE: LMT).
The defence contractor has now revealed its initial initiative in support of AM Forward,
which was carried out in association with AM supplier Sintavia.
Per the agreement,
the companies will increase their investigation into metal additive manufacturing (AM) possibilities as a substitute for castings and forgings,
boost the effectiveness of the supply chains for castings and forgings already in place,
and produce parts with a higher level of detail and more design options.
Present-day manufacturing hurdles
For crucial structural and sub-system aircraft and rocket components,
Lockheed Martin has used castings and forgings, much like the majority of OEMs in the aerospace sector.
There are some limitations to the manufacturing capabilities of these conventional manufacturing processes,
although they have been regarded as strong and dependable for thousands of years, particularly forging. Forging, for instance, limits the complexity of components,
and casting processes demand a large workforce,
both of which drive up production costs.
Instead, AM enables the one-off production of intricate and substantial components with a smaller workforce.
Benefits for Lockheed Martin
This can be very advantageous for a business like Lockheed Martin.
It has been attempting to use AM for more than a decade to create an entirely digital product development process that speeds up production during both the design and manufacturing phases.
The brand’s space division,
for instance, debuted its “Digital Tapestry” concept in 2016;
it is a model-based integrated engineering toolset that preserves digital data from the product’s conception to its realization and is supported by cutting-edge manufacturing methods like 3D printing.
According to Lockheed Martin,
scaling AM practices has the potential to increase the agility of casting and forging supply chains, where legacy processes are frequently resource- and time-intensive, in part due to the dearth of domestic suppliers.
Therefore, even in today’s challenging supply chain conditions,
the AM Forward initiative is ideal and can lead to shorter part lead times.
AM forward Leveraging 3Dprinting
In a letter from March 2022, Lockheed Martin,
one of the founding members of AM Forward, agreed to collaborate with SME suppliers to conduct research and enhance the effectiveness of AM techniques.
We anticipate hearing more in the future about the extensive use of AM and more resilient supply chains now that the company has affirmed the initiative’s goals,
and partnered with supplier Sintavia.
To represent the AM supply chain during the launch of AM Forward,
both Lockheed Martin and fellow OEM Honeywell Aerospace selected Sintavia,
a vendor with numerous Nadcap and other aerospace accreditations.
The flight and launch vehicles of aerospace manufacturers are already powered and cooled by Sintavia’s designs and prints,
but the company believes there are practically endless use cases possible.
Although casting and forging will be the main focus of this collaboration,
the partners will also look into friction stir AM, laser powder bed fusion, and electron beam-directed energy deposition.