Boeing is using virtual reality on the factory floor to prepare for building the new 737 MAX 10.
“Our mechanics are able — in a virtual scene — to see how landing gear will be installed, how it will look and what kind of tools we’ll be using,” said Sir-Sain Leong, 737 MAX manufacturing senior manager.
The experience enables mechanics to provide feedback on potential problems like pinch points or new tooling they’ll need months before final assembly starts. Engineers can take that information, make changes and build it into the production system.
“These are the people who do this work on a daily basis,” said Shawn Smith, a production engineer for the 737 MAX build integration product development team. “They know what works and what doesn’t.”
Mechanics in Renton, Wash., recently took a virtual tour of the new innovative 737 MAX 10 landing gear. It will have a shrinking mechanism that allows the longer gear to fit inside the fuselage, securing commonality on the 737 MAX family.
“To actually put on that headset, it actually makes a big difference,” said L.J. Cruz, an in-tank mechanic on the 737 MAX line. “This is virtual reality where you can touch it with controllers and move things, go up on ladders like you’re actually doing it.”
Leslie Forsberg, a Digital Aviation & Analytics VR Maintainability expert with Boeing Global Services, is part of the team that’s taking the technology to the factory floor. She said virtual reality has already been useful on the 777X and KC-46 tanker programs.
“We’ve been taking maintenance-type solutions and putting them within the virtual environment, making it an immersive airplane where we can simulate any type of maintenance situations a mechanic might face,” she said. “This is important because it’s the future.”