Weaving the Threads of the Digital Tapestry

Additive Manufacturing and a New Revolution in Design Engineering

As the information age progresses, the prevalence of digital technology continues to grow at an exponential rate. By 2020, the ‘digital universe’ is expected to reach 44 trillion gigabytes.

You don't have to look far to find examples of how the digital revolution is changing industries around the world. Digital technology is being used to more efficiently identify customer needs, reduce costs, and improve the quality of products and services. 

The manufacturing industry, in particular, is benefiting greatly from advances in areas that include modeling, simulation and automation. However, the greatest impact in manufacturing can only be realized when design and manufacturing are seamlessly integrated using digital technology.

At Lockheed Martin, we are weaving digital technology together at every stage of the product design and production process – from 3D virtual simulations to additive manufacturing – resulting in a fluid product development environment, called the Digital Tapestry. 

Speaking of the Future: Advanced Manufacturing

“Our goal is to not break one single thread within that Digital Tapestry,” said Dennis Little, Lockheed Martin Production Council chairman and vice president of Production. “If we can accomplish that, we can significantly reduce cycle time to market, reduce non-conformances and become more affordable in getting the solutions to the mission.”

With industrial 3D printing, engineers can print nearly any component they conceive at a fraction of the time it would take with traditional manufacturing methods and 2D drawings. Alternatively, designs can also be improved with virtual prototyping using tools like the Collaborative Human Immersive Laboratory (CHIL). 


Inspired by the gaming industry, this three-dimensional virtual reality center turns engineers and technicians into avatars and puts them inside their designs, allowing them to explore their creations in an active, hands-on way. At the same time, the system produces a constant stream of automatically updated specifications.

In the Digital Tapestry, the integration of digital technology does not end once the design reaches the production floor. 

CHIL: Collaborative Human Immersive Laboratory

The CHIL, or Collaborative Human Immersive Laboratory, is a virtual, 3-D simulation lab that allows the virtual creation of a spacecraft before the physical creation. 

Our manufacturing professionals are now using tablet computing to access and interact with digital models of products. Advanced projection systems can display work instructions directly onto the product itself to assist in assembly. Innovations in structured light and photogrammetry allow us to digitally piece together thousands of images to create a highly accurate model of a final product. Together, these breakthroughs in the Digital Tapestry are helping Lockheed Martin achieve unprecedented levels of manufacturing efficiency and quality.

“This is just the beginning,” said Dr. Don Kinard, Lockheed Martin Senior Fellow. “In the future, we will be able to perform highly automated inspection, where we have our scanning devices integrated with the product build so we can detect errors and immediately make changes or improvements as the products are being built.” 


Bringing us one step closer to that future, industry and academia are joining together to support the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI), a government-led initiative to revitalize U.S. manufacturing. Lockheed Martin has committed to a five-year partnership as a Tier 1 member of the Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute (DMDII).

“The Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute has been established to capture the most imaginative and promising technical solutions in the field of digital manufacturing, and clearly Lockheed Martin can make a huge contribution to that effort,” said Dr. Dean Bartles, DMDII executive director. “Lockheed Martin’s work on the Collaborative Human Immersive Lab represents precisely the kind of exciting leap forward that we want to incorporate into our technology roadmap. DMDII welcomes Lockheed Martin to our campaign to revolutionize American manufacturing.”

Partnering for Success: The Digital Lab for Manufacturing

Government, industry and academia are partnering to accelerate the development and adoption of cutting-edge manufacturing technologies through the  National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI). Lockheed Martin has committed to becoming a Lead Member of key NNMI institutes, including the $320 million Digital Lab for Manufacturing, a world-class manufacturing hub based in Chicago, Illinois.

June 12, 2014

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