CMS Solution for Lockheed Martin – Orion Heat Shield

Lockheed Space Systems – Denver, Colorado facilities include their CDS, or Composite Development Shop where composite structures for a variety of space applications are designed, machined and assembled. Between 2012 and 1013, Lockheed contracted CMS Industries /CMS North America to design and build two Poseidon machines that were subsequently supplied and installed.

Poseidon machine

One of the custom built Poseidon machines in use at Lockheed Space System’s CDS shop.

The larger of the two machines is a CMS Poseidon 38/75 model, which is about 7.5 meters in length by 3.8 meters in width and includes some unique features, including:

1. A moving table system that allows for either a part to be loaded onto the moving table outside of the machining area, and then positioned into the machining area via rails, or a work fixture/work-piece setup that can be positioned into the machining area without using the table. The table is approximately 20’ wide by 20’ deep. When rolled into the machining area (on special rails), the table is positioned directly over six CMS supplied pneumatic lifts that when engaged into the table mounts, slightly lift and position the table so the overall surface flatness and position relative to the machine travels is within .020”.

2. The machine was specially designed to fit into a space constrained room that included concrete walls on each side of the machine. The machine design incorporating modified vertical supporting structures that would still provide the necessary work area travels was created.

3. A modified version of the front door/frame unit that allows for the crane cables to pass through.

The original intended (and still current) use for this machine was for spacecraft hardware. However, after the machine was ordered, Lockheed corporate re-directed the new Orion spacecraft heat shield work to the CDS – Littleton Colorado facility as the newly ordered CMS machine was the only machine large enough to handle the work piece size within Lockheed Space Systems available machine inventory at that time.

The main machining operations were:

1. Surfacing the inside of the composite shell. Approximately 15 – 20% of the inside of composite shell required machining. These surfaces were machined to match the curvature of a mating titanium surface.

2. Drilling operation on the titanium surface. Positioning of the titanium material/work fixture assembly into the machine, utilizing the six pneumatic lifts to accurately position the assembly. Then a drilling and reaming operation began resulting in over 2,800 holes titanium/composite drill stack with the use of a speed reducer mounted to the end of the CMS spindle.

3. Match drill and ream heat shield assembly. The titanium structure and composite shield were then loosely mated, and re-positioned into the machine for a critical match drill and reaming operation to the same + 2,800 hole locations that were previously drilled.

4. Countersinking outer shell hole locations. Finally, a critical countersinking operation was needed for all +2,800 hole locations to ensure a flush mount fit of the fastener to the outer composite shield surface. A specially developed Lockheed Martin “PINC” countersinking head and tool mechanism that mounts directly to the HSK spindle interface was utilized to complete the countersinking operation.

The following pictures illustrate some of these steps.  These are all in the public domain / internet, or authorized for use by Lockheed Martin Space Systems. 

Orion heat shield composite shell

Machining the inside of the Orion heat shield’s composite shell.















CMS' 5-axis technology

CMS’ 5-axis technology allows for precision machining of the composite shell inside concave surface.















Orion heat shield

View of the heat shield components after countersinking outer shell hole locations in the custom-built Poseidon machining center.















***Any reuse of this information must provide such notice to CMSNA.





Daktronics Scores Big with CMS’ CNC Technology

Based in Brookings, South Dakota, Daktronics is famous for building large-scale led video displays, electronic scoreboards, LED digital billboards, and other similar signs and displays. The company has provided giant video boards for Everbank Stadium in Jacksonville, Florida, Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota, and other pro sports arenas, as well as huge video display boards for Los Angeles International (LAX) and other major airports. From high school football scoreboards to LED signs outside community centers to video screens in movie theater lobbies, Daktronics has designed, built, and installed countless state-of-the-art electronic displays all across the United States and the globe.
Daktronics has been in business since 1968, and in that time, the company has grown to be one of the most sought-after manufacturers in their industry. For many years, they used only manually-operated equipment to build the frames for their displays. The lengthy aluminum extrusions that comprise these frames were loaded onto the company’s chop saw line, often by crane, because of the extrusions’ huge size. They were then sawn to length, had their edges trimmed, and were drilled and milled as needed by a system of pedal-actuated equipment.

CNC Maching 45 degree saw operationThough their manual processes were effective, they proved insufficient for Daktronics’ growing needs. When the idea arose to construct a billboard cabinet section in one piece instead of the usual two, the need to reduce costs in parts and labor became apparent. The cabinet in question would require 48’ extrusions that Daktronics’ 33’ mill and saw machines couldn’t accommodate.

CMS Gets the Assist

Looking to increase the size of their frames, Daktronics wisely contacted CMS North America in mid-2012. After discussing their production needs and methods, CMS recommended the Avant-MBB moving gantry CNC machining center.

At the time, the Avant CNC system was available in two configurations: one with a flat worktable for machining flat workpieces and panels, and one with manually-operated crossrails vises for holding the workpiece. The crossrail setup was ideal for Daktronics’ processes, but the manual crossrails and vises left too much room for human error.

To ensure accuracy and repeatability, CMS developed a fully automatic, programmable crossrail system. Like the Avant-MBB’s machine head and other components, the crossrails and vises could now be programmed and operated via CNC.

The programmable crossrail setup enables the MBB to complete the entire machining process for Daktronics’ billboard sign frames: the aluminum extrusions can be cut to the desired length, then separated by the crossrails and vises, which allows the machine head to cut angles at connection points, drill holes and machine in grooves for wiring and connectors and perform finishing processes. At the end of the cycle, fully machined extrusions are ready for use.

The programmable crossrails and vises automatically clamp, unclamp, and maneuver the extrusions, which allows the CNC system to run with little to no operator supervision.

Daktronics’ Avant-MBB CNC Machining Center

CMS can modify several features of the Avant-MBB system to meet customer requirements. To accommodate the size and length of Daktronics’ aluminum extrusions, we built an Avant with 633” (≈1,608 cm) of X-axis travel, 80” (≈203 cm) of Y-axis travel, and 28” (≈72 cm) of Z-axis travel.

Avant-MBB CNC machining centers can be built with as many programmable crossrails as the customer requires. To meet Daktronics’ production needs, their MBB system was equipped with a total of 12 programmable crossrails.

The Avant system is capable of supporting two 5-axis machine heads for continuous, “two up” production. However, following careful evaluation of Daktronics’ throughput requirements, it was determined that a single machine head would best suit their needs.

Pre-Shipment Testing

With every CNC machining center we sell, we recommend that the customer participate in pre-shipment testing, to ensure that the system they’re getting can deliver the levels of precision and performance they need. Daktronics took us up on the offer, and shipped several 36-foot long aluminum extrusions to CMS’ main manufacturing plant in Italy. Mike Hulscher, Roger Koelling, Brad Pick and Matt Kurtenbach of Daktronics made the journey, as well.

The morning after their arrival, the Avant-MBB was prepared for the testing and demonstration to follow. The extrusions were loaded into the preprogrammed machine, and the Avant was set in motion. The entire machining cycle was completed without a hitch, and produced parts machined to Daktronics’ exact specifications. The Daktronics team marveled at the Avant-MBB’s exceptional performance.

After inspecting and measuring the parts, which were found to perfectly match the design requirements, Daktronics requested a secondary check of the machine’s accuracy. Using a setup of purpose-built mirrors and laser measurers, as well as specialized programming built into the MBB, the machining center was put through its paces. The resulting data showed the system to be well within required tolerances. Its performance exceeded the expectations of the Daktronics team.

CNC Machine design exampleDelivery, Setup & Ongoing Production

Daktronics’ Avant-MBB CNC machining center was delivered to their Sioux Falls, South Dakota, facility in summer 2013. We set up and installed the system in their production line immediately—setup and installation are included with nearly every CMS system. Another batch of tests were run to ensure proper calibration. After that, Daktronics took over and were machining their own parts in no time flat.

Daktronics has had incredible success with their Avant-MBB system. They can now produce 48’ long cabinets in a single section instead of two, and scrap has been significantly reduced. Their products benefit from the superior precision and perfect repeatability made possible by this CNC machining center.

The CMS Advantage

CMS North America and Daktronics were able to work together to develop the perfect CNC machining center for Daktronics’ unique and highly specialized production needs. The Avant-MBB (model # MBB 1B/1610 PX5) we provided for them is a prime example of our ability to respond to very specific engineering requests. Whereas most other CNC equipment manufacturers offer standard models with a few interchangeable options, CMS produces truly custom systems.

One Avant-MBB is sufficient for Daktronics’ current needs, but they have expressed interest in adding another CNC system to their production line in the near future—something which CMS would, of course, be more than happy to help them with!