Lockheed Martin Tactical Aircraft Systems (LMTAS) says a new process it is evaluating to reduce airframe assembly costs is showing good early results, including potential savings of 15% to 20% over conventional processes. Known as "aluminum investment casting," the process involves melting aluminum and pouring it into a mold to create large unitized assemblies. The process eliminates the need for sawing, stretch forming, machining, drilling, and fastening to make an assembly.
Lockheed Martin selected the forward equipment bay of the F-16 aircraft to evaluate the casting process.
"We chose this assembly because it was a good example of how we could replace a number of costly, time-consuming fabrication and assembly steps with a single casting," says J.T. Amin, who leads the LMTAS evaluation of the aluminum investment casting process. The casting was produced by Cercast Inc. of Canada, which manufactured the casting in 12 weeks versus the more than a year it would have taken using conventional methods, LMTAS officials say.
Lockheed Martin says additional benefits of this process are the elimination of potential fatigue problems associated with the numerous fastener holes required for detail parts, and the ability to create shapes that are normally difficult to machine.