The first of several machine tools to automate fuselage skin panel assembly for the giant U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III airlifter now operates at Boeing's Long Beach, CA, facilities. The machine, a Torres Mill 5-axis NC trimming and drilling machine, can trim and drill skin panels as long as 40 ft and as wide as 12 ft, with a curvature of up to 3 ft. And it can accomplish this task at a rate of 400 inches a minute. The machine also precisely drills tool-coordinating holes for locating detail parts in later assembly operations. An electronic database of the parts' dimensions controls the drilling and trimming operations. It provides an accuracy to within 0.002 inch, less than the thickness of a human hair. It also cuts out openings for hatches, access panels, and wiring and tubing. The accuracy is needed for two follow-on automation machines planned for operation early this year. One, a 33-ft-tall, 50-ft-wide riveter, will combine several smaller skin panels into one large panel and add the internal frames. The second will attach the underfloor bulkheads. E-mail David Eastman at www.boeingmedia.com.
Design collaboration now includes the entire value chain. From suppliers to customers, purchasing to outside experts, the collaborative design team includes internal and external groups. The design process now stretches across the globe in multiple software formats.
We're talking a look at 10 of the coolest technologies being developed by the US military today. In addition to saving lives on the battlefield, don't be surprised if you see some of these in your daily life some time in the near future.
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