The development of effective NDI methods is critical to ensure the use of EBDM technology in the manufacture of key F-35 components. Lockheed Martin photo
In this NMC project, an Integrated Project Team (IPT) is evaluating the effectiveness of traditional and advanced NDI techniques, including computed tomography (CT) scanning, traditional radiography, standard hand-held ultrasonic, merged ultrasonic, and phased array ultrasonic inspection methods, to establish standardized NDI processes and procedures for production.
Emerging additive manufacturing technologies such as Electron Beam Direct Manufacturing (EBDM) are considered vital to improving the affordability and to reducing industrial shortfalls inherent in traditional manufacturing technologies. Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company - Advanced Development Programs (LM Aero-ADP) is considering the EBDM process for the fabrication of several F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) components. However, one of the major obstacles associated with introducing additive manufactured components into the F-35 supply stream is the development and acceptance of adequate non-destructive inspection (NDI) methodologies and standards needed to ensure the product meets quality and design requirements.
The IPT is designing a “Master Part” that is representative of the part geometry being considered for F-35 applications. The IPT will develop and execute an NDI test plan to evaluate the Master Part in order to determine the capability for identifying all intentional defects in all geometric locations in the part. LM Aero- ADP will coordinate a round robin inspection of these components at two or more production-capable NDI suppliers. Each NDI supplier will be required to provide detailed inspection results to LM Aero-ADP such that a direct comparison of inspection results can be made. These recommendations will be reviewed and approved by the JSF Fracture Control Board.
The development of accepted NDI test methods and acceptance standards are required for EBDM technology to be approved for use in the fabrication of F-35 airframe components. The IPT expects NDI of EBDM components will cost more to perform than NDI of traditional wrought components, depending on the NDI method(s) down-selected in this project. Consequently, the development and implementation of approved NDI methodologies in this project will not directly result in cost savings. However, the significantly lower overall manufacturing cost of EBDM components more than offsets the likely higher NDI costs. Studies have shown that EBDM technology has the potential to reduce per-part manufacturing costs by 35 percent to 60 percent when compared to the costs to manufacture complex-shaped parts with traditional manufacturing approaches.
Upon approval, the recommended practices will be implemented by Sciaky (the EBDM vendor) and LM Aero on all designated EBDM components for the F-35 program. LM Aero - ADP has initially targeted five EBDM airframe components for implementation on the F-35 program, beginning in 2015.
Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR)
Joint Strike Fighter Program Office
Air Force Research Laboratory
Lockheed Martin Aeronautics - Advanced Development Programs