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Boeing retools Renton plant for 737’s big ramp-up

After finishing systems installation, a Boeing 737 is prepared for wing installation at Boeing’s 737 assembly plant in Renton. (Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times)

After finishing systems installation, a Boeing 737 is prepared for wing installation at Boeing’s 737 assembly plant in Renton. (Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times)

Boeing is transforming its 737 plant in Renton with new automation as it prepares to ramp up production to the unprecedented rate of 52 jets per month, or even more.

Six shiny, green 737 fuselage shells, freshly delivered by train from Wichita, Kan., sit snugly cradled in a steel superstructure like giant eggs in a carton at Boeing’s Renton factory.

Underneath, swarming mechanics install the guts of each airplane — wads of insulation blankets, snaking bundles of electrical wiring, intricately intertwined metal hydraulic tubes and pumps.

But despite appearances, those fuselages aren’t trapped in steel.

Soon, the steel walkways encasing the jets will lift away like drawbridges, freeing the fuselages to slide 150 feet forward during the night into the next position in Boeing’s newest moving assembly line.

The factory, already a showcase of efficiency with its two final-assembly lines churning out 42 of the single-aisle jets monthly, is gearing up by 2018 to build them at a prodigious pace of 52 a month — and later perhaps even more.

A key step is extending the use of moving assembly lines to the back-end shops where mechanics build the wings and stuff those fuselage shells. Continue Reading →

The 2015 Aerospace Forecast

Robots on the rise
David Skidmore, a strategic solutions specialist at Concept Systems and a certified member of the Control System Integrators Association, says machine vision, robotics, and manufacturing intelligence are enabling the aerospace industry to automate tasks that pose safety risks for employees, are tedious, or time consuming – increasing production capacity and improving quality.

“Applications for intelligent robotics are becoming more prevalent,” Skidmore says.

Having a robot move a stack of parts allows the work cell to make active and intelligent decisions, identifying and processing the correct part rather than just pulling a part from the stack. Human interactions with robots are also a focus, with features to ensure movements, speeds, and torques for robots to integrate safely with workers.

Read the original article here.