December 2020—Fastems is delivering two Automated Structure Laser Cleaner (AutoSLC) units for the F-35 Lightning II Wing Line. The delivery of the new project is estimated to be completed near the end of 2021.
The F-35 Lightning II. Image source and copyright: Lockheed Martin. Used with permission.
Fastems’ AutoSLC solution is based on a robotized system, which is equipped with a laser ablation scan head, designed to automatically remove primers and other protective coatings from F-35 wing components. Laser ablation provides a pristine surface to which nutplates can be mechanically bonded without using attach rivets. Previous methods of coating removal entailed manual sanding and solvent wiping which proved to be timely and yielded inconsistent bonding results. The Fastems AutoSLC system will process more than 3,000 drilled holes, reducing touch labor hours and improving aircraft quality for the end customer.
The AutoSLC’s new technical advancements, such as automated image processing, gathers information on quality anomalies for traceability and process improvement. It will also include a tailored operating system based on Fastems Fastems MMS (Manufacturing Management System). The solution is expected to shorten lead times by approximately 88 hours per unit, driving down the cost of the F-35.
Fastems and Lockheed Martin have previously collaborated to integrate the F-35 Lightning II Forward Fuselage Machine Tool Transfer Line (MTTL) in 2012. The MTTL has been critical in improving safety, quality, and efficiency for the F-35 forward fuselage manufacturing process. For this project, Fastems built five Load Unload & Skin Installation (LUSI) Stations, a Wash Station, and the MTTL Stacker Crane at the Lockheed Martin Fort Worth F-35 plant. Further, the system was scalable to enable Lockheed Martin to meet increasing production rates since 2012, currently stretching the line to 130 meters long. The Fastems MMS controls and schedules production based on the due date of the component, integrating processing phases and machining. The LUSI stations allow operators to carry out pre-assembly tasks and adjustments ergonomically. This latest MTTL solution has already delivered savings of approximately 26 hours per unit.
“We are proud and excited to continue our collaboration with Lockheed Martin on the production of their advanced, fifth-generation stealth fighter, the F-35. The path to successful cooperation with Lockheed Martin has been open and frequent collaboration from the very beginning and, together, developing a clear unified vision for the project. This has made processes and decision making much faster and has allowed us to deliver and even exceed the expected results,” says Mikko Nyman, CEO, Fastems. “This has been a truly unique project for our Finnish company, and we look forward to continuing and further expanding our cooperation with Lockheed Martin.”
Fastems has gathered a partner network of industry leaders for the development of the AutoSLC project. For example, the Finnish laser processing company Ionix is helping to develop the laser ablation end effector of the robot. During the AutoSLC project delivery, with this established partner network, Fastems and the Finnish supply chain are providing a substantial contribution to the F-35 program worldwide.
“At Lockheed Martin, we test and validate any new complex solution from the initial concept, through design and build, and after delivery. The fact that Fastems understands and shares this attention to detail positions them well to deliver a quality product at every phase,” said Steve Callaghan, vice president, F-35 Business Development and Strategic Integration. “Fastems’ AutoSLC solution will help us achieve full rate production at our targeted costs and will provide our customer with a high-quality product.”
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