New revolutionary fast robot to build the composite wings of Boeing 777X


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.

This new robot operates in Paine Field (Everett), it is 9 meters tall, it is built up by an huge head that moves at great speed, whirling and repositioning at the end of each run, and laids down thin strips of carbon fiber infused with epoxy resin.  The project manager Todd Rudberg said ““I have two of the world’s best machines running at the same time in my building. This is awesome.”

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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 33 meters long and 6 meters across at the widest end near the fuselage.

 

 

Control engineers Brad Davis, left and Kyle Walker check the placement of carbon fiber making test wing spars for the new Boeing 777 composite wings. Giant Automatic Fiber Placement machines made by ElectroImpact, a company in Mukilteo, are designed to lay down composite tape in different shapes and configurations to make wing spars and skins for the Boeing 777. Photo taken January

Control engineers check the placement of carbon fiber making test wing spars for the new Boeing 777 composite wings.
Giant Automatic Fiber Placement machines made by ElectroImpact, a company in Mukilteo, are designed to lay down composite tape in different shapes and configurations to make wing spars and skins for the Boeing 777.

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. By means this new composite manufacturing technology, the contouring is more precise and allows to Boeing 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.

Boeing will start using the machines next summer to manufacture wing skins and spars for 777X development and production. It will be the first time that a skin and spars of such a giant wing are made in  single full-length pieces.  It reduces the cost of manufacturing and save some weight because there are no joins.

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.

Engineers Cameron Gillespie, left and Andy Stulc examine the head of an Automatic Fiber Placement machine made by ElectroImpact. The Mukilteo company designs these AFP machines that lay down composite tape in different shapes and configurations to make wing spars and skins for the new Boeing 777 wings.

Engineers examine the head of an Automatic Fiber Placement machine made by ElectroImpact.


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