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Journal Article

Fabrication of Titanium Aerospace Hardware using Elevated Temperature Forming Processes

Titanium is a difficult material to fabricate into complex configurations. There is several elevated temperature forming processes available to produce titanium components for aerospace applications. The processes to be discussed are Superplastic Forming (SPF), hot forming and creep forming. SPF uses a tool that contains the required configuration and seals around the periphery so inert gas pressure can be used to form the material. Of the processes to be discussed, this is the one that can produce the most complex shapes containing the tightest radii. A variation of the process combines an SPF operation with diffusion bonding (SPF/DB) of two or more pieces of titanium together to produce integrally stiffened structure containing very few fasteners. Another process for shaping titanium is hot forming. In this process, matched metal tools, offset by the thickness of the starting material, are used to form the part contour at elevated temperature.
Technical Paper

Refurbishment of 767 ASAT Drill-Rivet-Lockbolt Machines

Boeing has relied upon the 767 ASAT (ASAT1) since 1983 to fasten the chords, stiffeners and rib posts to the web of the four 767 wing spars. The machine was originally commissioned with a Terra five axis CNC control. The Terra company went out of business and the controls were replaced with a custom DOS application in 1990. These are now hard to support so Boeing solicited proposals. Electroimpact proposed to retrofit with a Fanuc 31I CNC, and in addition, to replace all associated sensors, cables and feedback systems. This work is now complete on two of the four machines. Both left front and right front are in production with the new CNC control.
Journal Article

Optimization Methods for Portable Automation Equipment Utilizing Motion Tracking Technology

The use of portable automated equipment has increased in recent years with the introduction of flex track, crawling robots, and other innovative machine configurations. Portable automation technologies such as these lower infrastructure costs by minimizing factory floor space requirements and foundation expenses. Portable automation permits a higher density of automated equipment to be used adjacent to aircraft during assembly. This equipment also allows concurrent work in close proximity to automated processes, promotes flexibility for changes in rate, build plan, and floor space requirements throughout the life of an airplane program. This flexibility presents challenges that were not encountered with traditional fixed machine drilling centers. The work zone surrounding portable machines is relatively small, requiring additional setup time to relocate and position machines near the airframe.
Technical Paper

Static Calibration and Compensation of the Tau Parallel Kinematic Robot Using a Single 6-DOF Laser Tracker

Parallel kinematic mechanisms (PKMs) offer advantages of high stiffness to mass ratios, greater potential for accuracy and repeatability, and lower cost when compared to traditional assembly machines. Because of this, there is a strong interest in using PKMs for aerospace assembly and joining operations. This paper looks at the calibration of a prototype Gantry TAU robot by extending the higher-order implicit loop calibration techniques developed for serial link mechanisms to parallel link mechanisms. The kinematic model is based on the geometric model proposed by Dressler et al., augmented with a cubic spline error model of the motion errors for each of the three translation actuators resulting in 185 parameters. Measurements are taken with a 6-DOF laser tracker, and the kinematic parameters are solved as the maximum likelihood parameter estimate.
Journal Article

Flex Track One Sided One Up Assembly

The Boeing Company is striving to improve quality and reduce defects and injuries through the implementation of lightweight “Right Sized” automated drill and fasten equipment. This has lead to the factory adopting Boeing developed and supplier built flex track drill and countersink machines for drilling fuselage circumferential joins, wing panel to spar and wing splice stringers. The natural evolution of this technology is the addition of fastener installation to enable One Up Assembly. The critical component of One Up Assembly is keeping the joint squeezed tightly together to prevent burrs and debris at the interface. Traditionally this is done by two-sided machines providing concentric clamp up around the hole while it is being drilled. It was proposed that for stiff structure, the joint could be held together by beginning adjacent to a tack fastener, and assemble the joint sequentially using the adjacent hole clamp up from the previous hole to keep the joint clamped up.
Technical Paper

Design and Evaluation of Novel Composite Aircraft Repairs

One of the most common damages occurred found on commercial airframes are dents and gouges. The usual repair for these damages includes installation of metallic doublers with rivets or with hi-loks. Sometimes these doublers are of complex design, because of multiple angles of the original damaged skin. Many times the damages are in hard to reach areas. In these cases the traditional metallic doubler repairs are not only time consuming and but also expensive. As the numerous holes are be drilled through the original structure, its fatigue life is adversely affected. For airline operators, time is valuable and they cannot afford to lose revenue by spending longer time for repairs. The use of bonded composite doublers offers the airframe manufacturers and aircraft repair facilities an alternative repair process that alleviates the abovementioned concerns.
Technical Paper

Development of Sonic Design Data for Engineering Plastics Used for Strut and Nacelle Applications

Engineering plastics are now available for use on lightly loaded aircraft structure. These materials have excellent cost benefits as well as producibility benefits over their hand laidup predecessors. They are especially useful in the strut and nacelle areas where many of the fairings are attached for aerodynamic purposes only and may have rather complicated contours. In addition to lower costs, the manufacturing process is consistent, unlike hand laidup parts, which often require rework. In the strut and nacelle area one of the major requirements for all parts is sonic durability. This paper is intended to explain the test setup and test procedure for sonic testing of thermoplastics and thermosets and the results of the testing up to this point. Included in this explanation will be the assumptions made, the test setup, results of the testing and conclusions drawn from the testing.
Technical Paper

Turret Head Fastening Machine

The Turret Head Fastening System is an enhancement of current three position “C-frame” wing riveting machines. It was designed and built by Boeing as a fully instrumented research machine in 1991 for the 777 Airplane, and as a potential retrofit package for conventional drill, rivet, shave wing assembly machines. It was designed to automatically install rivets and bolts and perform the required hole preparation prior to fastener installation. In its current form, it will clamp a panel; and then as the fastener requires, drill, coldwork, ream, countersink the hole; inspect the hole; apply sealant when required; install threaded fasteners or rivets; torque the nut, swage the collar or upset the rivet as required; shave the rivet to ensure flushness; and finally unclamp the part - all within the current working envelope of a drill, rivet shave machine. Currently, switching from rivets to bolts requires a 5 minute tool change.
Technical Paper

Design and Manufacturing Processes for Automated Assembly Systems

In traditional manufacturing when a product (such as a wing panel or wing spar) was designed the manufacturing process to build the product was of little consideration. The design of the product was manually created on a 2 dimensional drawing without investigation of what data could be included to achieve a more productive automated assembly (fastening) system. Even less development was expended on integration of part design and manufacturing to improve downstream processes and product quality. Today, every avenue of optimization and continuous quality improvement must be explored to create a lean manufacturing environment that produces low costs with high productivity at all levels. This paper will describe design and manufacturing engineering processes used to streamline creation of machine control data for automated fastening systems. Applying design for manufacturing concepts and automation of upstream processes to provide significant benefits in the production environment.
Technical Paper

A Phased Approach to Optimized Robotic Assembly for the 777X

Low rate initial production of the 777X flight control surfaces and wing edges has been underway at the Boeing St. Louis site since early 2017. Drilling, inspection, and temporary fastening tasks are performed by automated multi-function robotic systems supplied by Electroimpact. On the heels of the successful implementation of the initial four (4) systems, Phases II and III are underway to meet increasing production demands with three (3) and four (4) new cells coming online, respectively. Assemblies are dedicated to particular cells for higher-rate production, while all systems are designed for commonality offering strategic backup capability. Safe operation and equipment density are optimized through the use of electronic safeguards. New time-saving process capabilities allow for one-up drilling, hole inspection, fastening, fastener inspection, and stem shaving.
Technical Paper

Digital Ply Tracing Software for Composite Repairs

With the increasing usage of composites for aerodynamic surfaces, the use of bonded composite repair processes are becoming more common. The repair process remains a largely manual process, with repair technicians scarfing or stepping, tracing the plies, fabricating repair patches and finally bonding the patch. The patch fabrication process becomes increasingly tedious and tiring due to cutting and tracing of each individual ply twice for thermal surveying and the final repair patch. We have developed a system that can replace the tracing and cutting components of the fabrication process using low cost, commercial off the shelf (COTS) tools. We present the ply boundary extraction method used and detail the nesting algorithm used to produce the final plies. Our software is benchmarked against the manual process with a list of successfully cut materials using a low cost fabric cutter with a steel drag blade.

Managing Aerospace Projects

Over the next twenty years, the role and contributions of successfully managed projects will continue to grow in importance to aerospace organizations, especially considering the demands of emerging markets. The accompanying challenges will be how to effectively reduce product and process cost where known (incremental) and unknown (transformational) technological innovation is required. Managing Aerospace Projects brings together ten seminal SAE technical papers that support the vision of a more holistic and integrated approach to highly complex projects. Using the concept of project management levers, Dr.