The team of Vector Composites, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of DR Technologies, Inc. with International advanced composites group Quickstep Holdings Limited, have been awarded a SBIR Phase II program. This award provides Vector and Quickstep a further boost in its bid to become a process supplier to the global aerospace and defence industries. Today the team announces that the U.S Air Force has committed to a Phase II research and development program aimed at assessing the use of Quickstep’s patented out-of-autoclave curing technology to manufacture composite materials used in the international F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program.
The Air Force award of the US$2.6 million base contract and potential US$1.4 million follow-on option (US$4 million total program authorization) to the Vector Composites (Vector), a Dayton, Ohio based advanced composites fabricator and Quickstep partner, has been deemed critical and, therefore, been awarded one of the highest levels of funding available under the U.S DOD Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program to encourage successful transition and implementation. Material handling, preparation and fabrication of all test articles and prototypes will be conducted at the Vector facility and will be subsequently cured at Quickstep’s U.S. subsidiary, Quickstep Composites LLC, located in an adjacent facility in Dayton.
The research will focus on process qualification of bismaleimide (BMI) and epoxy resin composite materials using the Quickstep process. These two materials constitute the majority of the advanced structural composites used in the Joint Strike Fighter and have an extensive design database. The contract, planned for 27 months, will develop extensive mechanical properties data for comparison to the baseline autoclave results, as well as fabricate and test representative components based on the JSF design. Industrial partners supporting the contract include Lockheed Martin, BAE Systems and ITT Integrated Structures. At the conclusion of the contract, any or all of these companies can elect to pursue full qualification of the process for use in production.
Chief Executive of Quickstep, Mr Philippe Odouard, said the Air Force’s decision to proceed with the Phase II award and the high level of funding awarded represented an important step in Quickstep’s two-pronged strategy to win manufacturing contracts for JSF.
“Quickstep has been actively working on two fronts to secure JSF manufacturing business,” Mr Odouard said. “This grant supports our founding strategy, which is to promote the patented Quickstep Process as a viable new technology for the manufacture of high performance composites such as those required for JSF components. Our parallel and complementary strategy targets specialist manufacturing contracts that can be completed at our manufacturing facility near Fremantle using traditional composites manufacturing techniques such as autoclave.”
“Quickstep has already enjoyed some success in targeting traditional manufacturing contracts for JSF – as demonstrated by the recent Memorandums of Understanding signed with Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Marand, and this significant teaming with Vector under the Air Force contract now indicates that we are also proceeding well with promoting our proprietary technology,” Mr Odouard continued.
Vector’s Vice President and General Manager Tim Brocklehurst said “The SBIR Phase II award to Vector launches Vector down the path to become a key supplier for advance composite applications for aerospace applications. We are pleased to be working with Quickstep and its “rapid cure” technology on this program. Through the demonstrated success of Vector’s Phase I SBIR contract we worked with Quickstep to demonstrate the viability of this technology. The potential for cost reduction has been realized in our previous work with Quickstep. The outcome of the Phase II SBIR offers great potential to position both companies for growth while providing a means for low cost manufacturing of advanced materials. The program efforts for the Air Force Phase II program will push Vector toward becoming a certified supplier for the F35 program and will open the doors to other emerging markets.
“Our efforts to target key applications for the Quickstep Process – particularly in the aerospace and defence sectors – remains a key priority for the Company,” Mr Odouard commented. “This ongoing work with our partner Vector Composites on behalf of the DOD represents an exciting opportunity for Quickstep to promote our proprietary technology to a very large and very important target market.”