Creare’s Breakthrough Cryogenic Machining Process Significantly Reduces F-35 Titanium Manufacturing Costs

Through the DoD Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR), Creare Incorporated has developed a breakthrough high-speed titanium machining process that will significantly reduce the manufacturing cost of critical titanium parts on multiple aircrafts, including Lockheed Martin’s F-35.

A small business located in Hanover, N.H., Creare, has been delivering engineering innovations for their clients for more than 50 years. Through the SBIR program, Creare has commercialized several products including advanced cryogenic refrigerators (cryocoolers), novel fasteners for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, and innovative corrosion protective covering systems for Navy ships, among many others. Creare continues this tradition of innovation, transition, and commercialization today in a multitude of areas, including advanced manufacturing.

Though the high strength-to-weight ratio of titanium alloys make them attractive for use in military aircraft, their high strength and low thermal conductivity concentrate heat at the cutting edge during machining. This heating limits the attainable processing speed due to accelerated tool wear, which in turn results in increased part costs. These excessive machining costs have limited the applications of titanium to specialized applications, such as high tech aircraft. Creare’s innovation is the development of an internal cooling approach for cutting tools using small flows of liquid cryogens, which enables increased processing speeds and extends tool life by up to a factor of 10, markedly reducing the manufacturing cost of critical titanium parts.

Creare began developing this technology in 2004 when the company received its initial Phase I Navy SBIR contract. Lockheed Martin became interested in the Creare cooling technology for its F-35 production challenges and helped secure funding as part of a larger F-35 initiative to enable the Phase III program. As a result of this Phase III work, the combined team of Creare, Lockheed Martin, and MAG Industrial Automation Systems has successfully validated this technology for the production of F-35 titanium parts and integrated the approach on production machine tools. In addition, the technology has been featured in several key manufacturing publications and demonstrated world-wide at numerous high-visibility manufacturing industry events, setting the stage for the commercial introduction of the technology in late-2011 or early-2012.