Robert Hartman, Owner & President
The global aerospace and defense industry is poised for steady growth. Key modernization efforts are underway by the government and DOD to reallocate dollars from legacy upgrades to existing weaponry and increase budgets to create new weapon platforms. Much of this change is in the context of a changing global landscape that includes third-world countries now having budgets and access to new technology to incorporate in their latest defense strategies. Secondly, launching of satellites and rockets, including those for space warfare and commercial deep space exploration continues its exponential growth. To address the future of defense and commercial space manufacturing, many new challenges and business opportunities are taking place that will potentially affect numerous well-established defense companies or commercial space companies such as SpaceX and Blue Origin to name a few. The newly formed US Space Command development and NASA’s latest lunar objectives to address lunar landings and missions for flying astronauts to deep space and Mars are also potential targets that will play their role in shaping the future and take predominance in these markets. In this market scenario, the equation for flying further, lighter and faster using less fuel relegates both defense and commercial space sectors to the use of different types of composite materials—due to their low weight to strength ratio—as the backbone to manufacturing that over the years has begun to replace numerous heavyweight metals.
“MCC provides key composite solutions for manufacturing parts and structures to both the commercial and defense sectors,” states Robert Hartman, owner and President of MCC. Hartman is an Army Veteran and senior-level executive with 35 years of serial entrepreneurial experience in building several Silicon Valley technology startups. As the former business consultant to the family-owned business, AAE Aerospace—a U.S. rocket nozzle and high temp composites manufacturing company—Hartman formed MCC and spun it out from the parent company in 2011. MCC subsequently entered the composites industry by offering plying and kitting prepreg material services to the defense composites manufacturing industry. Starting its journey from a 2500 sqft. facility, MCC today occupies over 62,000 sqft. of Class A manufacturing space with 10,000 sq ft. of clean rooms, providing full-service prepreg plying, kitting services and turnkey composites manufacturing to major defense and commercial space flight companies.
MCC’s pursuit of serving the market is based upon a vision for business sustainability, coupled with the burgeoning demand for space and ever-expanding defense services. Today, the company has become a key composite manufacturing supplier of critical flight parts and structures to these sectors and has sidestepped much of the commercial airplane market. The material is extensively used in structures like rotorcraft (composite rotor blades and interiors), fixed-wing and advanced spacecraft (cargo and crew capsules), and rockets, including control surfaces (fins), all requiring a level of composites utilizing both epoxy and phenolic (including Kevlar) type materials.
Core Team Expertise—A Cut Above the Rest
Manufacturing is a capital-intensive business and MCC continues to make new investments in large equipment, constant updating of software, and utilizes the latest manufacturing technologies
MCC notes that many of the critical flight parts produced in the composite manufacturing industry require significant amounts of touch labor. This includes plying the prepreg carbon or glass type materials into layers from which patterns are cut, followed by hand layup of the materials, autoclave or oven curing, and machining. MCC’s team, with in-depth composite knowledge and expertise in manufacturing processes, provide turnkey solutions beginning with using large scale custom built equipment for plying and kitting of prepreg materials, hand layup using laser projected files and fabrication, multiple large autoclaves, CNC machines (up to 32’ long) and a pedigree that includes awards for exemplary quality and on-time deliveries. MCC has achieved this industry pedigree reputation as a world-class composites manufacturing company for machining composite laminates, sandwiched honeycomb skin and skin to aluminum and Nomex™ cores, which is a key element used in parts and structures throughout the defense and commercial space sectors. “Manufacturing is a capital-intensive business and MCC continues to make new investments in large equipment, constant updating of software, and utilizes the latest manufacturing technologies, as this an important part of growth and scaling of the business,” says Hartman.
Several key factors set MCC apart from the competition, beginning with their ability to tackle manufacturing challenges by integrating the front end of complex initial design stages with what will be required to transition into full-rate production on new program parts or aircraft structures. The analogy is bringing the architect together with the builder on the front end, to factor in reducing the cost to manufacture, reducing risk, and developing the processes to manufacture, before actual production. “MCC is focused especially on uncompromised quality and attention to detail built into each product manufactured, as they are man-rated for flight and lives depend on us,” says Hartman.
The company’s quality system is built upon a rigorous foundation of in-depth training, supported by numerous difficult to obtain certifications and in a composite manufacturing Nadcap certification approved environment to not only meet but to exceed in all aspects of manufacturing. MCC’s track record is supported by five consecutive years of on-time deliveries, recently acknowledged by receiving a unique Gold Status 100 percent on-time delivery record award for 2018 from one of the industry’s largest defense manufacturers. “Our ability to build strong communication and collaboration with customers is what differentiates MCC and makes it a true “partner”/ team member from a plethora of so-called ‘suppliers,’” states Hartman.
As a partner, MCC understands the importance of the culture of the customer company in respect to calibrating each other’s expectations at the start of working on a program for building a long-term relationship of trust, respect, communication, and teamwork. This facet was demonstrated in their association with a Tier 1 defense company. The client chose MCC as the down-selected composite manufacturer for its ability to partner on the front end of a new key program and solve complex composite manufacturing issues. In the design phase, multiple scope changes occurred that required in-process solutions to problems related to manufacturing. The result was that MCC delivered ahead of schedule and solved major material and manufacturing challenges that would bridge the gap from design, to transition, to successful manufacturability for the customer.
The Runway Ahead
MCC’s market traction is based upon substantial growth in defense spending and NASA’s race for space, which now has defensive measures of protecting the U.S. interests in mind. “This is a game-changer for the U.S. defense-related manufacturing companies such as Boeing, Lockheed, Northrup Grumman Innovation Systems, and Raytheon, many of them winning large, newly developed programs and opportunities that inevitably benefit companies such as MCC,” says Hartman. These companies need to outsource to meet delivery schedules and growth in the new environment and MCC is in the crosshairs of these opportunities with the resources, qualified certifications, value engineering, equipment, facilities, quality system and talent to be considered as a leading contender.
In lockstep with the composites industry’s significant growth, the vision and roadmap for MCC include expansion of cutting-edge technology services including a potential additional facility in late 2020. MCC has already begun initial integration of some 3D manufacturing to reduce cycle times, increase throughput, and reduce complexity in the overall process. Other areas include new larger equipment, (a 6’x32’ 5 axis CNC machine for example), and continued success in partnering with customers on the front end design that requires experience building in the manufacturability of the product prior to actual production to reduce costs and increase efficiencies.
MCC continues building upon the foundation of industry brand awareness and customer earned trust driving its growth and expertise in building key long-term partnerships for exciting new programs and products requiring layup and bonding of critical flight parts and advanced machining of composite laminates, sandwiched Nomex™ and aluminum cores for the markets it serves.
"MCC provides key composite solutions for manufacturing critical flight parts and structures to both the commercial and defenSe sectors"
A significant part of MCC’s growth strategy has been due to its ability to create a working environment that attracts and recruits key talented and motivated industry individuals who possess a passion and excitement for being part of a fast-growing composites company that is deeply involved in both the present and future of the defense and commercial space markets. This is a company where they can celebrate their accomplishments, have their talents acknowledged, their careers flourish and their imagination ignited.