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.
The engineers and inventors of the post WWII period turned their attention to advancements in electronics, communication, and entertainment. Breakthrough inventions range from LEGOs and computer gaming to the integrated circuit and Ethernet -- a range of advancements that have little in common except they changed our lives.
Neil Fromer is the executive director of the Resnick Institute, a program for energy and sustainability at the California Institute of Technology, working to develop new ideas and research technologies related to providing a sustainable future. He spoke to us about the severity of the current drought in California and how solar energy can help prevent such situations in the future.
From home enthusiasts to workers on the manufacturing floor, everyone's imagination is captured by the potential of 3D printing. Prototyping, spare parts creation, art delivery, human organ creation, and even mass product production are all being targeted as current and potential uses for the technology.
Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.