Premium AEROTEC partners with Lockheed Martin to integrate additive manufacturing into F-35 aircraft

Premium AEROTEC, a German subsidiary of Airbus, has signed an additive manufacturing agreement with global security and aerospace company Lockheed MartinAiming to optimize production and reduce costs, the partners will work to identify parts in the F-35 Lightning II aircraft that can be produced using 3D printing. Greg Ulmer, Vice President and General Manager of the F-35 Lightning II Program at Lockheed Martin, said: 

“We see tremendous opportunity for additive manufacturing to further reduce costs, enhance quality and improve speed across the F-35 enterprise.” 

“F-35 production includes the most advanced manufacturing techniques of any fighter jet in the world and with companies like Premium AEROTEC, we will continue to integrate additional automation and additive manufacturing techniques that will ensure we’re always delivering on our cost, quality and efficiency goals.”

(left)Thomas Ehm, CEO at Premium AEROTEC and Greg Ulmer, Vice President and General Manager of the F-35 program at Lockheed Martin. Photo via Premium AEROTEC.
(left)Thomas Ehm, CEO at Premium AEROTEC and Greg Ulmer, Vice President and General Manager of the F-35 program at Lockheed Martin. Photo via Premium AEROTEC.

Advancing aerospace additive manufacturing

Lockheed Martin describes the F-35 as the most “lethal, survivable and connected” aircraft in the world. It is said to exceed the capabilities of a fighter jet due to its ability to collect, analyze and share data, and features such as supersonic speed, weapons capacity and superior range.

As a tier one supplier of metal components for Airbus, Premium AEROTEC utilizes its modern five-axis processing center to manufacture aluminium fuselage frames of up to seven meters in length. It also handles construction and production solutions for 3D printed parts, including all the post-processes.

Helping to develop additive manufacturing for production, Premium AEROTEC is a founding partner of the Next Generation Additive Manufacturing (NextGenAM) project, alongside EOS, and Daimler. In April this year, the partners successfully completed work on their first NextGenAM pilot plant in Varel, North West Germany. The first part to be serially produced at the facility is a replacement bracket for Premium AEROTEC diesel engines.

The pilot production chain at Premium AEROTEC in Varel, northern Germany. Photo via EOS.
Robotic machine management the NextGenAM pilot plant in Varel, northern Germany. Photo via EOS.

State of the art combat aircraft technology

Adopting its “5Ps for Additive Manufacturing” Lockheed Martin has been integrating the technology into its production for years. In November 2018, the company announced that 3D printed parts were helping its F-35 Full Mission Simulator (FMS) production save $3 million per unit. In summer of the same year, the company revealed details of its largest 3D printed aerospace parts to date using EBAM technology and, most recently, a 3D printed titanium bracket was integrated into the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor fighter.

Following the latest partnership announcement, which was made at the 2019 International Paris Air Show, Thomas Ehm, CEO of Premium AEROTEC, said, “We are excited to work with Lockheed Martin.”

“This collaboration is a first step for our company into the important U.S. defense market. Furthermore it’s a great opportunity to demonstrate the advantages of Premium AEROTEC’s leading edge 3D printing products and processes in combination with state of the art combat aircraft technology.”

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Featured image shows a formation of F-35 aircrafts. Photo via Lockheed Martin.