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Boeing’s Melbourne facility commences fifth Airpower Teaming System

The company confirmed that it has commenced development of the fifth ATS aircraft at Boeing's Melbourne facility, ahead of the completion of the final assembly facility in Toowoomba.

The company confirmed that it has commenced development of the fifth ATS aircraft at Boeing's Melbourne facility, ahead of the completion of the final assembly facility in Toowoomba.

According to a release from the company, the Melbourne facility located in Fishermans Bend, harnessed experience in robotics, composite materials and digital engineering for the Airpower Teaming System program.

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At 11.7 metres long, the unmanned aircraft is Australia’s first locally designed and developed combat aircraft in over 50 years.

“We approached the design of the air vehicle and production system together with a design for cost philosophy,” Andrew Glynn, director of Airpower Teaming System vehicle design and production, said.

“While we’ve developed a clean sheet design featuring many new technologies, we’ve also made smart decisions by incorporating off-the-shelf components and leveraging digital engineering to optimise both speed-to-market and design producibility.

“By collaborating with our Australian industry team, including RUAG Australia and Ferra Engineering, throughout the design process we’ve been able to incorporate ‘design for manufacture’ features across all air vehicle components and sub-systems.”

The first Airpower Teaming System Aircraft was created in May 2020.

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“The team adopted three key manufacturing innovations for the Airpower Teaming System, in the areas of robotic drill and fill, shimless assembly and full-size determinant assembly to significantly reduce assembly costs, compared with traditional methods,” Glynn continued.

“We’ve completely removed manual drilling from our production system, improving safety, quality and efficiency across our manufacturing operations.

“To achieve this, we have designed all components to have pre-drilled holes by our suppliers at the sub-component level, allowing the final assembly to snap together without the need for any manual drilling in the factory.”

Adnan Raghdo, director and chief engineer of Boeing Commercial Airplanes Fabrication Composite Capability, explained how Boeing developed the system.

“Our team has produced Boeing’s largest resin-infused single composite components for the Loyal Wingman leveraging proven technology,” Raghdo said.

“Extensive computational modelling was used up front to simulate and optimise the manufacturing process, which enabled ‘virtual learning’ ahead of the first part.”

Using additive manufacturing, Glynn explained that the ATS supported Australia’s sovereign supply chain.

“It’s a nod to Australian innovation and a credit to our small co-located team of experienced aerospace professionals and multi-skilled engineers, who have been able to solve problems and contribute to rebooting Australia’s defence aerospace manufacturing industry,” Glynn noted.

 [Related: Boeing hosts Australian manufacturing industry webinar]

Boeing’s Melbourne facility commences fifth Airpower Teaming System
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