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.
Everyone has had the experience of trying to scrape the last of the peanut butter or mayonnaise from the bottom of a glass jar without getting your hand sticky. Inventor Ron Jidmar thinks he has a solution to all of that nonsense with a flexible jar design that can be squeezed with one hand to lift contents from the bottom to the top of a jar or container, leaving the other hand free to scoop the contents out cleanly.
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