The first annual Defense Manufacturing Technology Achievement Award was presented on Nov. 30, 1999, at the Defense Manufacturing Conference, Miami Beach, Fla., to the Navy's Advanced Fiber Placement Program. The award is co-sponsored by Delores M. Etter, deputy under secretary of Defense for Science and Technology, and the Joint Defense Manufacturing Technology Panel. The award recognizes and honors those individuals most responsible for outstanding technical accomplishments in realizing a responsive world-class manufacturing capability to affordably meet the warfighters' needs throughout the Defense system life cycle.
Advanced Fiber Placement technology, funded by the Navy Manufacturing Technology Program from the early to mid-1990s, was managed by the Center of Excellence for Composites Manufacturing Technology in West Columbia, S.C.
In presenting the award, John Todaro of the Department of Defense Technology Transition Office commented, "As a result of this investment, Advanced Fiber Placement Technology is now a fully accepted, standard manufacturing process and is receiving widespread Defense and commercial application."
This automated process applies composite material to a tool surface using an application head mounted on a multi-axis numerically controlled machine tool. The application head cuts individual fiber bundles, enabling fabrication of complex shapes, and provides a state-of-the-art, low-cost substitute for manual touch labor with repeatable quality components. Initial implementation by Boeing was on the F/A-18E/F horizontal stabilator and by Northrop Grumman on the F/A-18E/F engine inlet ducts and fuselage panels, saving $90 million, or 25 to 38 percent per component.
Program success is demonstrated with transition the past several years to components for the V-22 Osprey, F-22 Raptor, C-17 Globemaster, Composites Armored Vehicle, T-45 Goshawk, AH-1 Cobra helicopter, and the Joint Strike Fighter. Commercial spin-offs include the Boeing 609 helicopter, Boeing 777 transport, and Raytheon Premier components. Over 14 fiber placement machines, valued at about $37 million, have been sold to several aerospace prime contractors.