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F-35 aircraft

Third Wave Systems has been awarded a contract to expand its machining modeling technology to composite materials used on the under development F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter (JSF) aircraft.

Awarded by the US Air Force Life Cycle Management Center (AFLCMC), the $3m contract will see the company develop, evaluate and implement a physics-based machining model of the Cycom 5250-4 bismaleimides (BMI) composite material, in collaboration with F-35 suppliers, including GKN Aerospace.

In addition to this, the company will work with airframe builders Triumph Group and Northrop Grumman, and F-35 composite machining supplier Janicki Industries, to perform similar activities for resin systems Cycom 977-3 and AFR-PE-4.

According to the company, initial technology transition targets for the contract are the F135 fan inlet case.

"The RIF project will result in full-scale composite machining modeling software, allowing reduced costs and manufacturing times."

Funds for the contract are being allocated by the Department of Defense’s (DoD) Rapid Innovation Fund (RIF).

Third Wave chief technical officer Troy Marusich said that the RIF project will result in full-scale composite machining modeling software, allowing reduced costs and manufacturing times, while enhancing component quality.

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"Working closely with GKN and other F-35 suppliers will result in the development, demonstration and transition of this technology into the DoD supply base," Marusich said.

The company’s project, "High Productivity Composite Machining for F135 Fan Inlet Case," is a direct response to the DoD’s requirement to reduce risk at every stage of composite manufacturing, in addition to improving machined composite component quality to accelerate insertion.

Third Wave claims that its transition machining modeling technology will reduce composite machining times by 20-35% and tooling costs by 20%, which will eventually minimise composite machining risks and increase insertion of organic matrix composites into military systems.

Image: An F-35 joint strike fighter aircraft during its flight. Photo: courtesy of Third Wave Systems.

Defence Technology