Boeing

Patent Spotlight

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Virtual Display of the Real-Time Position of a Robotic Device to a Human Operator Positioned on an Opposing Side of an Object

Check out a few of Boeing’s latest ideas and technical breakthroughs recently granted or published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

APPARATUSES AND METHODS FOR ADDITIVE MANUFACTURING

U.S. Patent Pending
Inventor: Adam R. Broda

Conventional manufacturing techniques for large-scale assemblies generally require the interconnection of various parts, using lots of fasteners and other associated hardware to form the final structure. Existing manufacturing techniques for large-scale structures are labor-intensive, increase manufacturing cycle time and cost, and limit design freedom.

This application, recently published by the United States Patent and Trademark Office, describes a 3D metal printer for large aircraft structures.

The proposed apparatus would fabricate an entire large structure in one piece. The apparatus comprises a linear rail that can rotate or revolve in a horizontal plane about a vertical axis.  An electromagnetic energy source is coupled to the linear rail and is movable in a polar coordinate system.  A compartment is configured to contain a metal powder. Powder removal vents in a build platform can discharge the metal powder from the powder-containment compartment.

GALLEY CART AND GALLEY SYSTEM OF AN AIRCRAFT

U.S. Patent 9,957,050
Inventor: Thomas Joseph Moran

Efficient use of cabin floor space directly influences airline operational costs. Galleys, while necessary to safely manage food and beverages, occupy significant cabin floor space because of the carts and the refrigeration system. 

The refrigeration system’s airflow ducts typically connect to the back of the carts at the galley rear wall and consume about four inches of the galley depth and the associated cabin floor space. Considering that some aircraft can have up to eight centerline galleys, this takes up a lot of space.

This newly-issued Boeing patent describes a galley refrigeration system and cart compartment that eliminate the typical return duct at the back of the cart without requiring a new cart design. With this new configuration, the cabin floor space traditionally occupied by galley refrigeration system ducting can be repurposed.

SPIN STABILIZATION OF A SPACECRAFT FOR AN ORBIT MANEUVER

U.S. Patent 9,963,248
Inventors: Qinghong W. Wang, Alexander Jacob Sobel, Gary Lemke, Timothy Lui, Kangsik Lee, Glenn N. Caplin, Troy Allen Fontana

A geosynchronous satellite follows the direction of the Earth’s rotation as it orbits.  To put it into a geosynchronous orbit, the satellite is loaded into a payload of a launch vehicle, which then carries the satellite into space. The launch vehicle may not carry the satellite all the way to the geosynchronous orbit, however, releasing it instead at a lower orbit. The satellite then maneuvers itself with its onboard thrusters to complete the transfer to its geosynchronous orbit. 

Torques on the satellite make it difficult to maintain attitude control when passing through low perigees. Torque can spin the spacecraft up or down, and the spinning might require frequent adjustments of spacecraft momentum using thrusters.   

This recent Boeing patent describes how to stabilize the spinning satellite in the transfer orbit and increase efficiency of thrusters used in the orbital maneuvers.

This patent proposes a method to align each thruster force parallel to the spin axis, and to use wobble and nutation control with wheels (momentum wheels, reaction wheels, or control moment gyros) to stabilize the satellite’s spin. Because the thruster force is parallel to the spin axis, it produces near zero torque about the spin axis. Therefore thruster firing for an orbit maneuver will not cause the spacecraft to spin up or spin down, but will maintain the spacecraft total momentum near constant.

APPARATUS AND METHODS FOR ACOUSTICALLY EXCITING A FACE PANEL OF A STOWAGE BIN INSIDE A VEHICLE

U.S. Patent 9,936,272
Inventors: Yakentim Ibrahim, Kevin S. Callahan, Michael Alan Feinberg

Flat panel speaker technology is often used to provide audio for environments like the inside of airplanes, where space and weight are priorities. \This recently-issued Boeing patent suggests a method for using flat panel speaker technology to turn a stowage bin into an audio source using resonant vibration. An electroacoustic transducer is integrated into the face panel of the stowage bin, thus enabling acoustic excitation of the face panel. 

Using an exciter instead of the conventional speaker cone is also more efficient. Positioning the electroacoustic transducer in such a fashion in a stowage bin instead of a conventional speaker frees up additional space. This enables other surfaces, such as the ceiling panels of the passenger compartment, to be used for other functionalities like a high-definition display system.    

VIRTUAL DISPLAY OF THE REAL-TIME POSITION OF A ROBOTIC DEVICE TO A HUMAN OPERATOR POSITIONED ON AN OPPOSING SIDE OF AN OBJECT

U.S. Patent 9,964,765
Inventor: Jim Gardiner

Humans use robotic devices to assemble and fabricate objects and structures, including really large objects, such as fuselages. However, sometimes the human operator cannot see how or where the robotic device is operating. For example, if a robot is drilling hole through an object, the human operator will not be able to see where the robot is drilling until the drill bit pierces the object.  This may slow down manufacturing and may also be dangerous.

So how can the human operator “see” through the object? This recently issued Boeing patent suggests using augmented reality (AR). 

The invention describes a system where the human operator wears an AR headset, while the real-time position and/or orientation of the robotic device operates in on the other side of the object. The system includes a first imaging device having a field of view of a first side of an object, and configured to track coordinate data for a first marker on a robotic device positioned on the first side of the object. A second imaging device would have a field of view of a second side of the object that opposes the first side. It would be configured to track coordination data for a second marker on the AR headset positioned on the second side of the object. A controller is configured to generate a virtual image of the robotic device. This virtual image is then provided to the AR headset for display to the human operator who can now visualize how and where the robotic device is operating on the other side of the object.

This invention could both improve the speed of manufacturing processes and the safety of people in an automated environment.