If it wasn’t already scheduled to cure composite wings for the new 777X, an autoclave under construction in a parking lot at Boeing’s site in Everett, Wash., could cook 100,000 pizzas at the same time.
But a more important duty awaits. Later this year, the autoclave will be the second one installed in the site's Composite Wing Center (CWC).
Autoclaves are like big pressure cookers. They use nitrogen, natural gas, air and water to cure composite materials in the 777X wings. The autoclave will be 28 feet in diameter and 120 feet deep.
Employees with Boeing Equipment Engineering worked with the autoclave contractor ASC to conduct geo-tech studies to determine if the asphalt would hold up under the nearly 1 million-pound structure. They determined that with steel plates and cribbing, the asphalt and soil could actually handle far more weight than originally anticipated.
This fall, the autoclave will be filled with 681,000 gallons of water to test the seals and welding, weighing in at nearly 7 million pounds. After the pressure test, the autoclave will likely be painted blue to match the first autoclave.
Tom Feeney, who manages the North Site Fabrication Service Delivery team for Facilities and Asset Management, said his team has already determined the tow path to the CWC when the move happens, currently scheduled for February 2019. Despite the first autoclave’s lengthy journey two years ago, the second autoclave is expected to be more straightforward.
“We did a lot of feasibility work with our contractor ASC and have built the foundation for it to rest on,” Feeney said. “The utilities will be ready.”
Bob Durko, 777X Autoclave manager, said the Autoclave 2 project “is extremely complicated”.
“Keeping the plates spinning requires constant interface with the vendor, the city of Everett, the Washington state Department of Environmental Management and multiple building management teams to assure both compliance and agreement on the path forward,” Durko added.
Safety also is critical, Durko said. No lost work days have been reported. “I am glad to be part of this team,” he said.
Donna Higgins, Everett site leader for Facilities and Asset Management, said her team continues to work closely with its Commercial Airplanes partners.
“We’re bringing 21st-century manufacturing to the Everett site with our work in the Composite Wing Center and our ongoing factory transformation projects," Higgins said.
By Michael Boroughs