Electronics & Test

Lithium-Ion Batteries Emerge as Possible Culprit in Dreamliner Incidents

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Re: Interesting subject.
RichardBradleySmith   1/18/2013 2:44:23 PM

I am confused. "It's a marvel that these metal birds can fly." I thought the point of this plane was it is plastic? As a sailor I can tell you plastic, wood or metal, fire is not a good thing. If that thing in the lead photo was the "battery" then I see why they grounded them until this gets sorted out. As aviation test engineer you of all people should know this will be resolved. While I really don't know anything about it I am still of the opinion that these planes do not fly anymore than a fully loaded and fueled B52 flys, once off the ground they are at all times in a controlled fall. Even sailplanes and hang gliders don't fly, they soar. How can they fly 5 miles up where there is little "air"? That makes no sense. Now massive amounts of air pressure pushing on the bottom of the wings to get them in the air, that I can believe. Massive power continuing them in the direction they are going, that I can believe. People tell me I am wrong and they wing shape really does generate enough lift but I don't see it.

Paul Murk
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Lithium-Ion Batteries Emerge as Possible
Paul Murk   1/18/2013 4:32:46 PM
Well Again, we are innocent until poven guilty!

I am more interested to find a common fault with all the unrelated components of the 787. Such as the idea that Boeing left it up to the subcontractor or supply for reliable compnents to find out the forged test documrnts to meet specifications. If this is the case Boeing need to be held ownership to this.

There has been a recent problem with government purchased Off the shelf items. This was a policy put in place by Pres. Clinton to mandate reduce military cost and custom built hardware by contractors by utilizing COTS, or off the shelf equipment...Good idea?

Recently there has been virus found embedded in micoprocessors from China in American Hardware used in the military. There has been a real problem with ICs and various electronic componets removed and refurbed off of old assemblies. The component logo was removed and new log placed on devices trhat never went thru any enviroment screen and shipped and used in new products. Again the refurb supplied by China. Hence COUNTERFIET components.

Problem is that since Clinton, this problem is 20 years in the making. So before shooting bullets, WISDOM tells me further investigation is warranted as to where did all the failed comonents originate and the paperwork that was supplied to validate know good assembly procedures and proper procurment and no ties to the discussion above.

Not to say Boeing took a short cut? But unknowingly purchased conertfeit components without knowledge. I am sure the proper screening was cercuimvented or they using the 787 as the test bed???

So glad the FAA had melons big enough to ground the Hydrogen dirigible airship Hindenburg I meant to say Boeing 787...Maybe 1000s of lives have been saved.

D Hambley
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outsourcing and information flow
D Hambley   1/18/2013 6:09:30 PM
Chuck, Nice article. The "teething pains" mentioned are not because its a new aircraft as asummed by prof David Freiwald, whom you interviewed. The teething pains are how to manage outsourcing. I have worked with several firms involved with the 787 batteries and the information flow was disturbing. Getting information from GS Yuasa was difficult on one project I worked on. When a teir-3 company is supposed to depend on a tier-4 company for its data, with no contractual obligation, problems like this will occur.

Boeing subcontacted Hamilton Sundstrand (now Pratt & Whitney) for the APU, which contained the Battery control/charger system which was subcontracted to Thales which got the battery from GS Yuasa, which bought the battery cells from.....etc etc.  Has anyone played the 'whipser game' in kindergarten? I kid you not; at some meetings we joked with frustration at how similar it was.

The engineers involved in all these firms are very intelligent people and the battery issues will be worked out. Boeing management must ensure that all subcontractors are communicating.

Forbes magazine's Steve Denning hit the nail on the head in his airticle,

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Re: Dreamliner Batteries
DanSchwartz   1/19/2013 10:55:56 AM
Yes, indeed you can pump out the thermal energy, depending on the coefficient of productivity (COP) of the system. For typical air conditioning systems the COP is about 4.0

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bobjengr   1/19/2013 7:55:38 PM
This is a very  interesting article.  Great information Charles.  I'm sure a company such as Boeing has a procedure similar to FEMA (Failure Mode Effect Analysis ).  I would love to see the failure mode "tree" for the lithium-ion battery application.  Of course, the FEMA does NOT take the place of testing, bench and flight but it can be an indicator of "things to come" realtive to failure.  In looking at the possible failure modes, severity, probability and detctability are given a number to quantify and pritorize each possible occurance.  From these multiples, rankings of high, moderate and low are addressed.  I have not idea if Boeing does this but if so, it would be very interesting to see.

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Re: Interesting subject.
ervin0072002   1/20/2013 11:48:53 AM
You are right I was thinking more in line with 777 and 787 since they are still flying.

Some basic info on how a plane flies. This is a physicist's view (so most likely incorrect). You transfer enough kinetic energy to potential energy (exhaust of the engine is kinetic, plane flying is potential energy) and the object flies. The reason the object flies is because the air flowing around the wing provides lift hence the plane does not convert the potential energy to kinetic by falling. The downside and the reason engines need to remain on during flight is drag on the plane. Drag (air friction) slows down the plane converting some of the potential energy into heat. The engine has to burn fuel and input more energy into the system to insure we don't loose enough potential energy to loose altitude. As far as thin or thick air that only effects drag and efficiency of the airplane. The thinner the air the faster you need to go to maintain the same amount of lift or more wing span (seeing that wingspan is fixed we tend to make airplanes go faster). Also keep in mind that these engines output 240-330 kN of force. That force is enough to suspend 60 tons of mass. Now yes an airplane is far greater than 60 tons I think Dreamliner tops at 500. Keep in mind that we only have to defeat drag to make it fly we don't have to supply enough force to lift it straight up.

Jennifer Campbell
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What's Next?
Jennifer Campbell   1/22/2013 9:20:21 PM
Design News has been covering the Dreamliner for so long - it's actually a bit sad to see it come to this. The plane seems to be falling apart at the seams.

Chuck, can you give us any insight into what Boeing's next step might be? They emphasize the safety of the aircraft, but, at the end of the day, it's been grounded by the FAA ...




Dave Palmer
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Re: What's Next?
Dave Palmer   1/22/2013 9:50:27 PM
@Jennifer Campbell: Yes, I remember reading about the 787 in Design News back when I was in college.  It was called the 7E7 then, and it was supposed to be the next big thing.  Over the past few years, the news has been a lot less positive.

Another major aerospace project that got lots of "gee-whiz" press around that time, the Joint Strike Fighter, has also met with lots of delays, cost overruns, and technical problems.  Now it seems more and more likely that the Department of Defense will pull the plug on the whole program.

Speaking as an outsider: what's going on with the U.S. aerospace industry? Are we just not capable of executing these kinds of big projects anymore? Are the projects just too big these days (the mutually-conflicting requirements for the Joint Strike Fighter come to mind)? Or has the development process always been this messy?

Given that the highest-profile civilian and military aircraft projects of the last decade have wound up scandalously late, over-budget, over-weight, and full of bugs, it almost seems like there is a systemic problem in the industry.  But maybe this is just "normal," and I shouldn't have been naive enough to believe the hype in the first place.  Or maybe things aren't as bad as they seem.

Any industry insiders care to weigh in on this quesion?

Cabe Atwell
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Re: What's Next?
Cabe Atwell   1/23/2013 4:26:53 PM
JAXA, Japan's space agency, as well as US federal investigators are planning on testing the battery type from this incident. Any news beyond "we are going to test" yet?


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Re: Interesting subject.
kenish   1/23/2013 4:44:55 PM
@Ervin- I'm a pilot and engineer, and your aerdynamic theory is more or less correct.  As you state, planes don't fly by converting PE to KE by falling.  But without gravity there won't be a lift vector; a subtle but important distinction.  BTW an airliner is a surprisingly efficient glider...I'd guess a 20:1 glide ratio is typical.

Airflow over the top contour of the wing is critical while the underside of the wing less so. (Next time you see a plane, look at the designed-in smoothness of the top of the wing compared to the bottom).  Frost, insect contamination, or a paint step can drastically or completely destroy lift if it "trips" the laminar flow over the top of the wing.  So will going too fast if airflow over the top of the wing accelerates to supersonic, called a "Mach stall".  (The 777 and other newer planes use a "supercritical" airfoil that allows it). 

"The thinner the air the faster you need to go to maintain the same amount of lift"..this is called Indicated Airspeed and True Airspeed.  For a constant amount of lift, IAS will be the same at sea level or 40,000 feet.  As the term implies, it's the number of air molecules the plane encouters per unit of time.  That produces a ram pressure that the pilot sees on the airspeed indicator.  But, in thinner air the plane can go faster before it encounters the same ram pressure and drag.  IAS to TAS is a pretty complicated equation.  A 767 at cruise altitude may have a TAS of 500 knots (= groundspeed with no wind) while IAS is 325 knots.

Airliners are one of the most high-tech machines you will encounter in daily life.  It's amazing they perform so reliably and safely.  The 4th anniversary of US passenger airlines being fatality-free is a few weeks away.  About 3 billion people carried on 40 million flights!

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