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F-22 Mid-Fuselage Mate System
In 2002, DSC began work on the Mid-Fuselage align & mate system in Fort Worth, Texas. This system performs a similar function to the full-body mate system in Marietta, but the pieces are smaller and the assembly line is not mobile; it is in a fixed position. Space availability in critical locations prevented the same use of vision that we used on the main assembly line, so lasers are used to make position measurements. Lockheed Martin purchased this system in late 2002, and two systems were brought on-line, on schedule and on budget, in 2003. Lockheed reports that this system has reduced span time and labor costs and improved quality in excess of their most optimistic expectations.
The total delivery includes two mate jigs with a total of 32 axes of servo motion and 24 lasers - 16 of which measure in two dimensions, and 8 that measure in one dimension. The system works by holding a center section stationary and using the lasers to align the forward and aft sections to the center section. Unlike many manually operated jigs that align jig sections to jig sections and depend that the aircraft parts are properly located in the jig sections - this system aligns aircraft parts to aircraft parts. The actual jig position is not a critical part of the equation, because the aircraft part is always in the proper position.
Automated, active tooling greatly reduces the amount of mass in a jig and significantly improves the access to the aircraft parts - further reducing span time even beyond the actual align and mate time savings. Drilling and fastener installation tasks are completed much faster as a result of the improved access.