Boeing announced on the opening day of the Farnborough Air Show that it is in the final phases of testing and production readiness of a new method for building 777 fuselages "as part of its ongoing technology investment strategy."
Known as the Fuselage Automated Upright Build (FAUB), this advanced manufacturing technology is expected to improve workplace safety and increase product quality. The technology has been in development by Boeing since 2012.
With this new technology, fuselage sections will be built using automated, guided robots that will fasten the panels of the fuselage together, drilling and filling the more than approximately 60,000 fasteners that are today installed by hand.
FAUB offers numerous benefits including an improvement in employee safety. The nature of the drilling and filling work makes it suitable for an automated solution. According to Boeing, more than half of all injuries on the 777 program have occurred during the phase of production that is now being automated. In addition, the automated system is expected to reduce build times and improve first-time quality of the build process. For a video of how the process works, click here.
"This is the first time such technology will be used by Boeing to manufacture wide-body commercial airplanes," said Elizabeth Lund, Vice President and General Manager, 777 program and Everett site, Boeing Commercial Airplanes. "We're excited to continue improving the production process here and we're positioning ourselves to begin building 777X airplanes in the future."
The 777 program has already begun testing FAUB at a facility in Anacortes, WA. Production readiness preparations are underway and the system will be installed in Everett in a new portion of the main factory that is under construction now. The technology is expected to be implemented in the next few years.
The robotic system, designed for Boeing by KUKA Systems, is the latest in a series of strategic advanced manufacturing moves on the 777 program, which have already included new systems for painting wings and other drilling operations.