The U.S. Air Force is pressing suppliers of advanced materials to look closer at their systems as it considers lower aircraft volumes, requirements for superior performance and lower maintenance costs.
The Department of Defense and NASA have invested more than $1 billion in composites design, material, processes and manufacturing in the past 25 years, said John Russell, manager for the defensewide manufacturing science and technology program at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. The time is right for a new way of building aircraft.
Future volumes may approximate 100 aircraft, in contrast, for example, a global order of 3,000 F-35 jets.
Autoclaves and milling machines are too expensive and are manufacturing choke points, Russell said in a lecture at SAMPE in Seattle. Radically shorter cycle times for both development and production are needed to be able to rapidly field new capabilities and try to overcome rapid change in threats.
Russell suggested it would be nice to integrate multiple design software tools across companies.
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