ANN ARBOR, Mich., 8 Jan. 2010. Advanced Photonix Inc.'s subsidiary, Picometrix LLC, has entered into a Phase II SBIR contract from the U.S. Air Force to develop a prototype terahertz quality-control system. The system, to be based on the company's patented fiber-coupled T-Ray 4000 instrument, will be used to ensure the proper fit of the coated exterior surfaces of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II fighter jet, which has been developed under the U.S. Department of Defense's Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program.
This contract is a continuance of the Phase I SBIR feasibility work completed in 2009. The 24-month Phase II contract is valued at $3 million, with an option for an additional $1.5 million, at the Air Force's discretion.
Company officials anticipate that the Phase II dedicated T-Ray 4000 prototype system will lead to the deployment of multiple production systems in Phase III.
The T-Ray 4000 nondestructive testing system deployed in Phase III would improve manufacturing efficiency and reduce costs on the expensive process of installing the coated doors and panels on the F-35, in line with the affordability focus of the JSF Program.
The handheld scanner developed under this Phase II SBIR will be a plug-in accessory to the system, making it an option for the company's T-Ray 4000 instrument. The scanner could facilitate additional applications which would open new markets, says a representative.
This technology could be utilized for any aircraft, not just the F-35, and could be adapted for other applications including: measurement of coating thickness, subsurface inspection, surface topography measurements, measurement of coating tapers, and coating cure states.
A handheld scanner could also be applicable for homeland security applications, such as airport personnel scanning for explosives and suicide bombers, reveals a representative.
"The application of our T-Ray 4000 product platform to help solve the difficult manufacturing challenge posed by the next generation military aircraft is a potentially significant opportunity to deploy multiple systems for the manufacturing and maintenance of the F-35 throughout its life. We believe this is just the first of many manufacturing quality control and process control opportunities for our T-Ray product line in a variety of markets," says Richard (Rick) Kurtz, CEO of API.
Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor and is responsible for the final assembly of the F-35.