Skunk Works® Advanced Manufacturing
Skunk Works® is on the leading edge of manufacturing innovation. We continually look for ways to improve processes and performance while extracting cost by focusing on the areas of advanced composites, additive manufacturing and high-temperature structures.
Across Lockheed Martin, advanced manufacturing is dramatically increasing the pace at which we are able to deliver high-quality, affordable products to our customer. Through initiatives like the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation, we are partnering with our customers to accelerate manufacturing innovation from the laboratory to production.
Skunk Works is home to the world’s largest gantry-style Automated Fiber Placement machine, which is used to manufacture large-scale, complex-shaped structures composed of composite materials. These materials, which are a lighter-weight alternative to metals with equivalent or greater strength, are increasingly used in airframes and other industrial products.
This cutting-edge technology expands our design freedom and lowers costs through part-count reduction. Automated Fiber Placement is just one of a number of sympathetic technologies Skunk Works uses to bring our legacy of rapid, innovative, high-performance solutions to future production programs, providing our nation with the best products at the best price.
We believe additive manufacturing is the future and have invested heavily in its development to bring it to our platforms. Much of the conventional manufacturing techniques used today are subtractive; meaning material is removed from the raw stock to achieve the desired product. Commonly referred to as 3-D printing, additive processes create parts and components from the ground up, resulting in little to zero waste. Not only does this reduce waste, it allows us to rapidly respond to our customers’ needs while eliminating excess material and its associated cost.
We have adopted additive manufacturing on several of our platforms to reduce cost and push the boundaries of design. One example is through Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) of polymers. This rapid, low-cost process allows for an integration of new payloads and sensors into the design to be able to produce and field products to meet the warfighter’s rapidly changing needs.
At very high speeds, the friction of the atmosphere against an aircraft’s skin generates extreme temperatures and stresses that can distort and break down the structure. We have pioneered a variety of advanced materials and manufacturing technologies, which enable our high-speed and hypersonic concepts. Using materials such as metallics, ceramics and carbon-carbon, we build structures that deliver dramatic cost, schedule and weight savings, while enabling our products to excel in extreme environments.
The Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2 (HTV-2) is an example of a hypersonic platform that leverages new materials development.