What are ATK’s material evaluation and testing processes like?

Materials are typically evaluated based upon the existing databases and past experience. We use testing, which is performed on the base materials as well as the component level, as a part of the design validation process in order to validate that design assumptions and margins are adequate.

What is your role in terms of working with supply chain partners?

As a means to stay competitive, ATK is always looking for true supplier partners. Our role is to mentor and develop suppliers via supplier development, supplier symposiums, and process improvement methodologies workshops. We rely heavily on market studies and current supplier performance to identify sub-tier providers that hold capabilities to complement our existing competencies. Offhand, I can think of several strategic agreements that we have, which promote the use of local businesses and small business set asides.

What are your criteria for evaluating and choosing supply chain partners?

Current performance evaluations include a balanced table of capabilities, cost, quality, and delivery metrics. Our existing suppliers are reviewed on a quarterly basis for performance to these requirements. Pending suppliers are audited for fundamental business practices such as capacity planning, quality systems and financial health monitors that are indicative of a supplier’s stability. Equally important to the evaluation process is the practice of process improvement, which brings suppliers into the standard of quality that will make ATK and our supplier partners successful.

What performance properties would you like to see improved in composites materials?

Better control on prepreg raw material properties for resin content, areal weight, and per ply thickness. If the prepreg could be controlled within a tighter tolerance, band variability would be reduced. As customers call for tighter control on part thicknesses, the challenge is often exceeded when material tolerances on a per ply thickness are stacked.

What obstacles or challenges do composites face to being more widely adopted in the aviation and aerospace industries?

Composites have made significant inroads in both the aviation and aerospace industries. It is now widely accepted to use composites on commercial aircraft primary structures and for man-rated aerospace applications. The next challenge will be to incorporate real-time health monitoring systems into composite components and systems to detect impact damage or in-use anomalies such as delaminations. Right now, we are working on a health monitoring system for large composite structures, which is expected to expand the use of composites in aviation and aerospace.