A few of the Clark staff drove to Picayune, Miss., to visit SSC and train the staff
in how to use the fixtures and to answer
any questions. When that was done, the
big moment was at hand. The Clark staff
had concerns about the welding process
and the heat that likely would distort the
assembly. The tolerances were already
tight, so any distortion would make removing the tubes from the fixture difficult and perhaps impossible.
To Clark’s relief and surprise, the assembly came out easier than it went in,
according to TenBrink.
An Exclusive Club
The Clark staff’s visit to SSC illustrated
the nature of this project. It entailed
more than a supply chain that connected a fabricator to Lockheed Martin to
NASA. At the top tier, it’s not so much
a supply chain as it is a supply network.
“Each big company is part of an
ecosystem,” TenBrink said, describing
a business environment characterized
both competition and cooperation: competition for contracts and cooperation
after contracts are awarded.
That ecosystem is overseen by Exostar® LLC, a service provider that helps
highly regulated industries collaborate
securely and mitigate risk. It deals in
healthcare, financial services, energy,
commercial aviation, aerospace, and
defense. Membership in the Exostar network is akin to certification in the National Aerospace and Defense Contractors Accreditation Program (Nadcap) or
ISO/TS 16949 certification: It provides
recognition that the member company’s
products have met the quality criteria for
an entire industry, not just one company.
As such, the successful run-off of the
fixtures at SSC led to an expedited order
for fixtures for Kennedy Space Center,
Cape Canaveral, Fla., which further demonstrated the strength of the network.
“At Lockheed Martin, these fixtures
are for just one or two assemblies,” TenBrink said. “We have sold more than 100
to SSC and many to Cape Canaveral,” he
More was in store.
“The engineer who originally con-
tacted us was given new responsibili-
ties and now works at Kennedy Space
Center,” TenBrink said. He called about
check fixtures for use in a clean room.
Conventional materials for check fixture
bases are wood, usually mahogany, and
medium-density fiberboard. A chief ben-
efit is that they resist warping in humid
conditions, but a drawback is that they
shed particulates. NASA’s next step in-
volved metal fixtures for use in the room
in which the space capsule was under
construction (see Figure 3).
Suddenly this project took on new
meaning at Clark. At first, it was something abstract—tubes for assemblies for
systems to be installed somewhere, who
knows where, to do who knows what,
A check fixture for a tubular assembly captures nearly every linear inch of tube—bends,
straights, elevations, and end points. After inserting the assembly into the fixture, the operator slides the various pins into place to contact the tube. It provides quick feedback on an
interference with the fixture body or pins.
Cleanroom operations have little tolerance for particulate matter. Clark Fixture Technologies furnished a check fixture specifically for this application, one made of metal to prevent introducing particles to this environment.