The F-35 Lightning II, also known as the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), is described as the world’s most advanced multirole fighter aircraft. (Lockheed Martin photo by Randy Crites.)
The F-35 Lightning II, also known as the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), is described as the world’s most advanced multirole fighter aircraft. (Lockheed Martin photo by Randy Crites.)

The two systems will be the first MAG fibre placement machines installed at ATK's Clearfield, Utah, USA, facility. They will ship in early 2012, bringing to 7 the total number of VIPER AFP (automated fibre placement) systems installed at ATK plants.

The VIPER AFP system allows near-net-shape lay-up of enclosed and deeply contoured structures and concave/convex surfaces for precision production of fuselage sections, panels, cowls, ducts and nozzle cones for commercial, military and space vehicles. The VIPER 6000 handles tow widths of 3.2, 6.4 and 12.7 mm (0.125, 0.25, 0.5 in), producing fibre band widths up to 406.4 mm (16 in).

The order includes MAG's ACES® (Advanced Composites Environment Suite) software, a modular programming and simulation system, which will be customised to aid programming of existing machines at the plant. 

"In the competitive evaluation leading up to this order, our ability to optimise the process and system for this particular application was a pivotal advantage for us," explains Randy Kappesser, Vice President MAG Composites. "The VIPER system can deliver high lay-up rates with difficult bismaleimide (BMI) material, which is important to the cost-reduction goals for the F-35 programme."

"Equally important, MAG proved it had the total, integrated package of hardware, software and processing expertise to ensure rapid and successful implementation in a demanding environment. Adding further value for the customer, we will create new modules for our ACES software, which will provide a single programming and simulation platform that encompasses this plant's new and existing machines."

MAG offered the best combination of cost, schedule and technical risk with this equipment, notes Vern Benson, chief technologist at ATK.

"By combining ATK and MAG's prior experience, we expect a synergy that will redefine 'state-of-the-art' for automated fibre placement with BMI materials," Benson says.

MAG is as leading supplier of automated production systems for the F-35 programme, reports Kappesser. As well as a number of fibre placement systems, MAG supplies drilling and milling systems for the F-35 programme and recently received an order from prime contractor Lockheed Martin for two AutoDrill systems to be used in wing fabrication.

  • Expanding its technology portfolio in composites, MAG recently introduced an automated system for producing wind turbine blades that is designed to reduce manufacturing times while increasing quality and longevity of the blades.