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Alliant Techsystems Orders MAG Fibre Placement System for F-35

22 February 2011

MAG IAS has expanded its role as a supplier of manufacturing technology for the F-35 Lightning II with an order for two VIPER 6000 Fibre Placement Systems from Alliant Techsystems.

The two systems will be the first MAG fibre placement machines installed at ATK's Clearfield, Utah, facility, bringing to seven the total number of VIPER AFP (automated fibre placement) systems installed at ATK plants. The order includes MAG's ACES software (Advanced Composites Environment Suite), a modular programming and simulation system, which will be customized with new functionality to aid programming of existing machines at the plant. The two systems will ship in early 2012.

""In the competitive evaluation leading up to this order, our ability to optimize the process and system for this particular application was a pivotal advantage for us,"" explained 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 program,"" Kappesser added. ""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, and is willing to stand behind the lay-up rate demanded with this challenging BMI material system,"" said 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.""

The current order reinforces MAG's role as leading supplier of automated production systems for the F-35 program, according to Kappesser. ""To date, MAG has shipped or received orders for a significant number of fibre placement systems of various types for the F-35 program. MAG also supplies drilling and milling systems for the F-35 program and recently received an order from prime contractor Lockheed Martin for two AutoDrill systems to be used in wing fabrication,"" he added. ""In the competitive and cost-reduction-driven environment surrounding the F-35 program, MAG production technology has proven itself a dominant force, favourably positioning our company to work with additional suppliers as the program ramps up.""

The VIPER AFP system provides control over feed, clamp, cut and re-start for up to 32 individual tows of composite prepreg slit tape, allowing automated ""on-the-fly"" adjustment of the fibre band width. 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).