A new method for building 777 fuselages is being developed as part of Boeing’s ongoing technology investment strategy.
“This is the first time such technology will be used by Boeing to manufacture commercial airplanes, and the 777 program is leading the way,” said Elizabeth Lund, vice president and general manager of the 777 program and Everett, Wash. site.
Known as the Fuselage Automated Upright Build, or FAUB, this Advanced Manufacturing technology improves workplace safety and increases product quality.
With FAUB, fuselage sections will be built using automated, guided robots that will fasten the panels of the fuselage together, drilling and filling the more than approximately 60,000 fasteners that are today installed by hand.
The traditional hand-installation method has proven challenging over the years, with employees positioned inside and outside of the fuselage, drilling and filling in sync.
“It’s really hard on your shoulders. It’s hard on your hands,” said Steve Blanchett, a mechanic.
FAUB offers numerous benefits including an improvement in employee safety. More than half of all injuries on the 777 program have occurred during the phase of production that is being automated. In addition, the automated system is expected to reduce build times and improve first-time quality of the build process.
“It saves so much time. And it saves our bodies,” said Blanchett.
Testing is in work at an off-site facility, and production readiness preparations are underway. It’s anticipated the equipment will ultimately be housed in the new 40-27 building, the Everett factory extension project currently in construction. The technology is expected to be implemented in the next few years and will be used on the 777 and 777X.
The robotic system, designed for Boeing by KUKA Systems, is the latest in a series of strategic Advanced Manufacturing moves on the 777 program, which have already included new systems for painting wings and other drilling operations.
“We’re excited to continue improving the production process here, and we’re positioning ourselves to begin building 777X airplanes in the future,” said Lund.