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Communication tool could lift boats of many AM innovators

The US Department of Defense (DoD) is keen on exploring the implementation of additive equipment in the battlefield and shipboard for quick-turn part fabrication. There will be far-reaching and disruptive impacts to the supply chain. The sooner manufacturers adapt additive manufacturing (AM), the quicker the industry can get to a steady state with defined procedures and processes.

To help speed adaptation, Lockheed Martin devised a communication tool to convey the potential applications of AM across the entire lifecycle of a typical DoD program; from proposal to end-use production.

Six years ago, Lockheed Martin established the Advanced Manufacturing Center at its Training and Logistics plant in Orlando, FL. Today, the additive manufacturing (AM) team produces several thousand parts a year, many of which are for end-use production.

Along the way, Lockheed Martin created and trademarked the 5Ps Additive Manufacturing Model. Each of the Ps is associated with a functional organization, adding to the effectiveness and wide appeal of the model.

The first P is for proposal. It is championed by the business development organization. By quickly creating concept models of new training products, Lockheed Martin and its customers can quickly communicate ideas and have what-if discussions from the onset of the project, allowing the team to converge early toward a common vision.

The second P is for prototype. Naturally this phase of the project happens shortly after contract award. It is arguably the reason this technology was invented in the first place. This P belongs to the engineering organization. With the ability to quickly vet design concepts, it encourages engineers to investigate more innovative designs, which are perhaps risker to successfully implement but lead to enhanced product features and training realism. Rotary and Mission Systems (RMS) Orlando has implemented what it calls “design by day and print by night.” We challenge our engineers to bring us a design by 5 pm, and they can have their parts first thing in the morning as they walk in to their desks.

The third P is for procurement. This P belongs to the sourcing organization and has to do with managing the supply chain by leveraging AM technology to achieve the benefits of localized manufacturing in terms of reduced inventory and transportation costs.

The fourth P is for production support. It belongs to the operations team. Production relies heavily on the use of templates and jigs to achieve repeatable quality products. Leveraging AM, the manufacturing team is able to rapidly and inexpensively develop assembly aids to meet quality and yield targets. Assembly staff members are empowered to come up with innovative tooling and fixtures, knowing that bringing their design ideas to reality is now easily achievable.

The fifth P is for production. AM for end-use production is championed by the program office. This is the Holy Grail of AM. Everyone is interested to know how many additively manufactured parts are being delivered in final products. In the past five years, the Training and Logistics Solutions (TLS) team in Orlando has placed more than 10,000 parts in end-use production in more than 50 different programs.

The TLS division collaborates on additive projects across the Lockheed Martin enterprise, to leverage resources and know-how. The 5Ps model has served as a great tool to engage the whole of the organization in the AM journey. We no longer have additive engineers pushing the technology. Often, it’s our internal and external customers asking us how we plan to implement additive for their projects to drive business results.

The TLS AM team has produced more than 15,000 individual AM components. The majority of the components have been a one-for-one replacement with traditionally produced parts with slight variations and addition of complexity to take advantage of AM design freedom.
AM is not right for all manufacturing woes, but it has its sweet spot: military training and simulators.

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