If anyone understands the ways in which rapid prototyping is changing the aerospace and defense industry, it’s Samir Mehta — the president of military systems at the behemoth manufacturer of helicopters, Sirkorsky.
Over the course of the past few years, Mehta has overseen three rapid prototyping projects, which include the Raider, Matrix and Defiant.
In all three cases, rapid prototyping helped Sirkorsky increase its rate of innovation by reducing costs and getting products to market faster. According to Mehta, rapid prototyping protects both Sirkorsky and its customers.
In an interview with Defense News, Mehta stated that rapid prototyping is incredibly important for fulfilling a customer’s missions. “With long development programs, every year the program goes is another year the budgeting could be messed with,” said Mehta. “It could be cut, defunded, there are a lot of things that could happen. So every year of development is a year of vulnerability for a budgeting standpoint.”
According to Mehta, long development programs also keep customers from executing their missions. Reducing the time it takes to develop new projects, such as the Raider, Matrix and Defiant, not only gets the projects to market more quickly, but it also reduces the cost of projects.
As Mehta explained, Sirkorsky no longer views flight tests as opportunities to experiment with technologies, but instead, as confirmation that the technologies are solid. This reduces the amount of time, resources and money it takes to get projects off the ground and completed.
In fact, Mehta says some of the work his company is doing wouldn’t be possible without rapid prototyping, including the Matrix and the S-97 Raider. Without the ability to prototype quickly, the company would have to pay twice as much in research and development costs, which he says might not be feasible in these tight economic times.
When asked whether he expected rapid prototyping to spread, Mehta gave a simple, direct answer: “I think it will become an industry standard.”
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