Fastems is to deliver 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 by the end of 2021.
The AutoSLC is based on a robotised system that 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 the use of rivets. Previous methods of coating removal entailed manual sanding and solvent wiping, which proved to be timely and yielded inconsistent bonding results.
The AutoSLC incorporates new technical advancements, such as automated image processing that gathers information on ‘quality anomalies for traceability and process improvement’. It will also include a tailored operating system based on Fastems MMS (Manufacturing Management System). The equipment is expected to shorten lead times by about 88hr ‘per unit’.
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 and skin installation (LUSI) stations, a wash station, and the MTTL stacker crane at the Lockheed Martin Fort Worth F-35 plant.
Moreover, the system was scalable to enable Lockheed Martin to meet increasing production rates since 2012, currently stretching the line to a length of 130m.
Mikko Nyman, Fastems’ CEO, said: “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.”
Steve Callaghan, vice president of F-35 business development and strategic integration, said: “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. Fastems’ AutoSLC solution will help us achieve full rate production at our targeted costs and will provide our customer with a high-quality product.”