BAE Standardizes on Build!IT to Manufacture the Joint Strike Fighter

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Joint Strike FighterJoint Strike Fighter (JSF) is an international program to build a common fighter aircraft that meets the combined needs of the US Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps, as well as the UK’s Royal Air Force and Royal Navy. Lockheed Martin leads the charge in cooperation with BAE SYSTEMS and Northrop Grumman to engineer and deliver an F-35 aircraft that meets the unique requirements of all partners. Each manufacturer has their own role in the development of the aircraft. BAE SYSTEMS Samlesbury is responsible for the design and assembly of the aft fuselage and tails of the aircraft.

Optimizing lean manufacturing

The resounding mandate of JSF is leaner-than-lean manufacturing. The demanding manufacturing requirements necessitate that engineering be able to communicate design information quickly and accurately to the shop floor. The JSF “digital thread” is an electronic database that supports digital engineering-through-manufacturing and is essential for a rapid production process. To support an accelerated manufacturing process, BAE introduced a modular tooling concept that required their engineers to transfer 3D models with GD&T features and tolerances from CATIA software to the shop floor for tool-building and assembly inspection. BAE turned to BuildIT to provide a seamless link between engineering and manufacturing.

Build!IT enables the digital thread

BAE F-35 Assembly Tool

BAE engineer placing aft components in the assembly tool on F-35 CTOL A1.

Build!IT is a 3D metrology software for reliable coordinate measurement, tool-building, inspection and process automation. It provides a traceable, model-based approach to measurement planning, GD&T inspection and reporting. Build!IT replaces traditional 2D drawings and spreadsheet representations of the data and eliminates potential error caused by the misinterpretation of non-graphical data. Build!IT has proven to be a valuable resource in the manufacturing process at BAE.

Build!IT loads native CATIA files including the associated features and tolerances. Design changes made on the 3D master models, are directly loaded in Build!IT and immediately available on the shop floor. Tool builders can quickly assemble tooling details and make the required modifications. Measurement results can be efficiently communicated to the quality data management system for further analysis and reporting. The BAE team is able to efficiently manage the assembly process without expensive changes to tooling as well as satisfy the variations in aircraft design.

BAE Aft Port Side Fuselage

The aft port side fuselage of the F-35 CTOL A1 nears completion at BAE.

BAE’s process involves multiple laser trackers and portable arms. Build!IT provides a consistent, easy-to-use interface for working with multiple, simultaneous portable coordinate metrology devices on the shop floor. Maintaining a single software platform when switching from one device to another has allowed BAE to build and inspect more efficiently and eliminate many potential errors.

“Using Build!IT, our existing laser trackers have become much more efficient tools allowing the operators to work directly in 3D on the actual design geometry. Savings of up to 50% in design hours have been seen on certain tool types” states Will Scott, Tool Design License Holder at BAE in Samlesbury.

Build!IT continues to help BAE reduce costs, improve efficiency and reduce the number of tools in order to fulfill their commitments within the JSF team.


BAE SYSTEMS’ new modular tooling system required an upgraded to their manufacturing process in order to enhance production efficiency and meet the requirements of the Joint Strike Fighter program.


BAE SYSTEMS standardizes on Build!IT advanced coordinate metrology software to design a tool building and inspection process for JSF manufacturing.


BuilIT becomes a key component of the digital engineering-though-manufacturing process and facilitates design to manufacturing communication, eliminates translation errors and achieves tool design and manufacturing process savings of up to 50%.

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