"or rather lack of thinking, that is going on at Boeing" I would add 'management' right after this. Some of the engineers that I have come into contact with at Boeing definitely want to solve this issue and kill it, not cover it and pray!
But as I have said in prior Boeing posts, it will be about economics and politics that cover these choices. Remember Ray Lahood cannot figure out a miniscule budget cut, how is he going to "personnally" review corrective actions!
Well, the recent battery failures, indeed, did not result in an "aircraft fire." So the cocky lead project engineer can dream that with additional improvements they won't ever have a fire.
This reminds me of a statement by a once prominent political leader who in response to a grand jury question said, "It depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is."
So, what's his definition of a fire? If it is limited to the inside of a battery cell and does not produce an open flame is that not a fire? If it escapes the battery cell but is contained by the case, is it not a fire? Is it a fire only if the aircraft beyond the battery case bursts into flames? Do you require a fire by any definition to cause serious damage or endanger the passengers and crew before you define it as an onboard fire?
Any form of thermal runaway, whether or not it is sustained by combustion is still very dangerous. Even if ignition temperatures are not reached, thermal damage to insulators and structural members, melting for example, might lead to passenger injury or loss of the aircraft.
""or rather lack of thinking, that is going on at Boeing" I would add 'management' right after this."
I agree, but we have to be more speciffic: Avionics team and the full management.
Avionics is the source of heavy project problems and accounts sometimes for up to half of the staff in some companies....remember A380 problems with the cabling which pushed them 2 years off ...
I like this jet and I will fly with it. Component failures occurs alltime in planes- we just don't know about. For example , planes can fly without functional Auxiliary Power Unit for few days. This is the mentality of our time.
I want to add only the words of my professor Petre Augustin ( Aerolasticity):
"Man can work for mony or glory, you as engineers, will work allways for glory!"
When events are tracked from raw materials, through details, through subassemblies, through assemblies a Liaison Engineer is likely involved to disposition nonconformances. The Material Reiew Board (MRB) is the organisation which keeps everybody honest. In Duracell literally every issue will have some form of nonconformance....the raw zinc particle distribution may fluctuate...it's written up. The manganese dioxide powder density may fluctuate....it's written up...and so on. Critical battery assemblies follow very narrowly defined Frequency Distribution rules to ensure that indivdual cells provide a balanced output.
One issue which DOESN'T show up is dendrite growth within individual cells since even after a 5 days aging, that event is still microscopic in scale and not detectable within the standard testing procedures. If the root cause of Boeing's problem turns out to be INTERNALLY shorted cells due to dendrite growth all the corrective action featured will not stop the battery from malfunctioning...which begs the question...How vital is the battery system where flight control is concerned? Boeing has committed heavily to electrical systems as a weight saving for the 787 and the battery is part of that...Is there at least triple redundancy in the electrical system? And if so, what part does the battery play in that?
Talk to the Liaison Engineers...they're more involved in the day to day complications which arise during the manufacture of ANYTHING whether it's raw material, individual cells (in this case), assembly problems or even test aberrations.
Some great post heres so I'll try to keep up. If there was only a fire in one of the failures why does it seem thar the only remeady is fire prevention and not heat. It would seem to me these insulators can get just as hot or make heat worse. Why has the battery itself not been look at. I have delt with several re-calls from manufactorer concerning Li ion batteries
Boeing is clearly in full PR mode. What if any statements by the FAA. I thought FAA was working on this problem as well. I would bet the reason they don't know what the original problem is because they were never able to duplicate in the shop, it is very difficult to duplicate real world in the lab so I am not entirely convinced.
No "root cause" = can't even start FMECA. But when there's so much commerce on the line, who's gonna hold the FAA to their OWN rules? I'm guessing in the final analysis the formal procedures will be "expedited" out of the way and once again the dice will be rolled - after all the "sticklers" like us who read this don't have the clout to stop it.
@TJ McDermott and @Dave Palmer, you have resolved a very complex, very expensive situation down to the "root cause"... not dealing with "root cause". Without jumping into a bunch of organizational jargon, this is the root cause of so many failures: We are suffering from a Leadership Vacuum. Managers we have. Managers we need. Managers are trained to enhance their talent in accepting a given system and optimizing the system to minimize risk. Too often that minimization of risk involves transferring the risk out of the boundaries of their system and into the surrounding systems. To TJ's example, foam liberation on the External Tank was minimized to an "acceptable level" as defined by the External Tank Managers until a large chunk of liberated foam was transferred over to the Obiter System. Similarly, the O-Ring sealing problem was managed by the Solid Rocket Booster team until the blow-by was transferred to the External Tank that was attached to Challenger.
"Kicking the Can Down The Road" is too often an acceptable risk-minimization solution utilized by Management in all types of mechanical, electrical, chemical, financial, educational, and political systems. Leadership seeks to find the Root Cause and reduce risk through redesign of the system, not through the bolting-on of contingency components that simply pass along the risk of failure to other components in the system...
Your comment is very relevant about material QC and specifications. I have worked with a number of Lithium Battery companies in the US and overseas in providing process mixing systems, all are built with 316 L SS processing parts-even though I pointed out the equipment will shed miniscule particles of the 316 l SS.
Even the BASE Materials used in the batteries are processed within steel contact surface systems, so mininscule metallic particles will always sluogh off as the equipment is used. Even the equipment I have supplied.
Remember 316 L SS is non-magnetic so cannot be removed magnetically, like 4130 or caste iron (used on roll mills-even though some are chromed).
The electrolyte is a liquid dispersion which can be filtered under pressure through an appropriate filter assy down to 0.5 microns and occasionally less for low viscosity fluids (0.02 microns). Some particles have been measured in the 2 to 8 micron range- easier to remove
It appears the electrolyte has been one of the sources of the heating occuring due to the build up of metallic particles agglomerating in sections of the cells. Where did they come from, is obvious the Base Raw Material processing and never considered a problem because no one looked deep enough to find them till these recent problems (particles from 21microns down too 0.75 microns have been observed).
Once agglomerated and held in place by a static load in each particle the battery is now prone to shorting, thus a thermal run occurs. How do they agglomerate, easy the electrolyte is a semi fluid so these particle migrate through gravity, vibration, angular tilt during flight, slight changes in internal viscosity due to heat/load-temperature and internal pressures as the battery is being cycled.
Is their a process method which can eliminate these metallic paricles, YES. But will require a total rethink and retooling from all suppliers of the base raw materials and the process mixing equipment being used to make the final battery assemblies. If these batteries are to continue as a source of power on aircraft
Just like in the electronics industry, "cleanliness is next to godliness" through each and every phase of production. Even a skin particle can ruin a semiconductor component. That why many of there process systems are specialized ceramics, coatings or mills, all the way through the operation.
Boeing have put more than 1,000 personnel on this problem and still do not have a ROOT CAUSE-whoa. Who forgot basic chemistry/engineering 101?
The sketch they have in this article does not even address the real problem and Scott you have placed your finger on it and so has Professor Don Sadoway of MIT.
They can vent for all there worth, but what about keeping it cool or cooler when such a condition arises if they are not willing to go back to the basic chemistry of the battery and clean that up first.
I mentioned above the number of Boeing personnel involved and I have spoken with a long time Boeing person who has some ideas but their are too many now on the table. Nothing at this time can distract them from getting the aircraft back into service and the above is Mike Sinnett's current answer, without a ROOT CAUSE ANLAYSIS at hand!
Maybe Boeing should ask FOR ASSISTANCE outside the company and also the Battery Manufcarurers should also do the same together with the Base Raw Material suppliers.... get clean materials and reduce any problems there and make a better containmant housing.
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