The 777X wing production is not your uncle’s wing plant found in Japan. This is a home brewed concoction which is reminiscent of your grand-pa's innovative acumen found during the industrial age from the early 20th century. Automation meets high powered computers with finally tooled machining from Mukilteo, Wa. How American is that?
Dominic gates presents: The 777X Wing in just one piece, I am referring to the article itself, but one piece is an apply considered statement for the Star Wars version of "The Attack of The Machines", via Everett, Washington Wing plant as part of the 777X production facility. Boeing looks to tug 777X wings over several hundred feet between buildings entering the 777X production floor starting by year's end.
Important: Use the "Red Headline link” above in order to watch the amazing video and original article.
To fabricate the composite parts of the giant wings of Boeing’s 777X, Mukilteo-based engineering firm Electroimpact has designed and built a new generation of robotic machines that haven’t been previously shown to outsiders.
Seattle Times aerospace reporter
Inside a new building just west of Paine Field in Everett, a team of young engineers recently gave outsiders the first glimpse at a technological advance critical to the future of airplane making in the Puget Sound region.
Robotic heads zipped along at great speed, whirling and repositioning at the end of each run, as their business end — which glowed like a line of fire — laid down thin strips of carbon fiber infused with epoxy resin.
The manufacturing machines giving this dazzling performance, designed and built by Mukilteo-based Electroimpact, will be used to fabricate the giant composite wings of Boeing’s next jet, the 777X.
What it makes: State-of-the-art automation used by aerospace manufacturers to fabricate parts and assemble aircraft.
Founded: By Peter Zieve in 1986
Employees: About 650 in the U.S., with 125 more in the U.K. and a small presence in China, Brazil and Australia
2015 revenue: Approximately $250 million
Think of these machines as 30-foot-tall, 3-D printers, each costing tens of millions of dollars.
Machines have been making composite parts for several years, Electroimpact project manager Todd Rudberg said his team’s machines take the technology’s speed, scale and precision to whole new levels.
“ And we have data to back that up,” he said with clear delight. “I have two of the world’s best machines running at the same time in my building. This is awesome.”
Precisely placing layer upon layer of carbon-fiber strips infused with epoxy resin, one of these so-called Automated Fiber Placement (AFP) machines builds up the 777X’s composite wing skin, producing a single piece 110 feet long and 20 feet across at the widest end near the fuselage.
The second AFP machine does something more complex: It lays the carbon-fiber strips down on a surface that has two 90-degree angles to make a U-shaped structural beam for the wing, called a spar, again in a single piece.
The precise contouring made possible by this composite manufacturing technology is what allows Boeing’s engineers to design newly slender and aerodynamically perfect wings.
Electroimpact has already delivered the first AFP spar machine to Boeing’s new composite-wing center, which is nearing completion just across Paine Field.
Thanks to Electroimpact’s location, the machine was loaded onto an oversize trailer and had to travel only a couple hundred yards of public road to reach the airfield.
Next summer, Boeing will start using the machines to manufacture wing skins and spars for 777X development and production.
Making the skins and spars of such a giant wing in single full-length pieces is new. It should reduce the cost of manufacturing and save some weight because there are no joins.
Using a wholly different method, the composite wing spar of the 787 is made in three sections by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in Japan.
In the U.K., Airbus supplier GKN uses AFP machines to fabricate the spars of the A350 wing, also in three sections.
To protect Boeing’s competitive advantage with the new equipment, Electroimpact has assigned the proprietary intellectual property on the 777X machine heads to the jet maker.
So though Electroimpact will certainly sell future AFP machines to rival plane makers, the key technology in these machines will be exclusive to Boeing.
For initial, low-rate production, Boeing will need just two of each machine. But at peak production sometime in the 2020s, there could be half a dozen or more of each lined up inside the vast 777X wing facility.