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Lockheed Finds AM Sweet Spot

The bull’s-eye: military training and simulators.

Large 5-axis milling center finishing an F16 near-net shape cockpit. Photos courtesy Lockheed Martin.)

Not everything should be additively produced. But military training cockpits should. In the five years since the Advanced Manufacturing Center was first established at Lockheed Martin’s Training and Logistics plant in Orlando, FL, grown parts insertion on end-use applications has steadily grown.

In the early days, like at most companies, additive engineers at Lockheed Martin dabbled in desktop 3D printing to create everything from cell phone holders to company-themed keychains. The idea was to get familiar with the technology and understand its strengths and weaknesses. Today, the additive manufacturing (AM) team produces several thousand parts a year, many of which are for end-use production.


3D printing trinkets in the early days was fun but it led to some unintended consequences. Everyone was beginning to associate 3D printing with making toys. We understood that 3D printing could mature into a widely accepted manufacturing method for real parts beyond keychains and novelty items. This thinking led his team to create and trademark the 5Ps Additive Manufacturing Model.

The model serves as a communication tool to convey the potential applications of AM across the entire lifecycle of a typical US Department of Defense (DoD) program; from proposal to end-use production. 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 through the doors and 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 DoD is keen on exploring the implementation of additive equipment in the battlefield and shipboard for quick-turn part fabrication. There are bound to be far-reaching and disruptive impacts to the supply chain. The sooner manufacturers adapt this new technology, the quicker the industry can get to a steady state with defined procedures and processes.

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. Over the past five years, the TLS team in Orlando has placed more than 10,000 parts in end-use production in more than 50 different programs.

The 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 on their projects to drive business results.

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