Kawasaki Motors Manufacturing Corp. recently opened a new production division for aerospace parts. As of May 1st, 2017, the Lincoln, Nebraska based production facility began producing cargo doors for Boeing’s upcoming upgrade to its 777 passenger plane: the 777X.
Although Kawasaki has been making aerospace parts for Boeing for decades, the new division in Nebraska represents the first time those parts will be made in the U.S. The company recently celebrated with a grand opening ceremony on May 18th.
Image Source: Wikimedia
Investing In Automation
Through a $12.6 million investment, Kawasaki converted 30,000 square feet of space of its 27th Street production facility specifically to produce the 777X cargo doors. The plant was already manufacturing Kawasaki ATVs, utility vehicles, personal watercraft, and railway cars.
Much of the investment went to an Electroimpact automatic riveting machine, and robotic painting machine designed to efficiently produce the cargo doors.
Image Source: Kawasaki Rail Car, Inc.
New Jobs, Future Production Hopes
Much of the machinery is automated for highly efficient manufacturing but the new Boeing production division is still expected to add 50 news jobs. This is in addition to 2,000 workers already employed at the Lincoln production facility.
Although the Boeing division plant is currently just focused on the production the cargo doors, plant manger and vice president, Mike Boyle expressed hopes for additional work moving forward. “We’re getting our feet wet right now with Boeing […] We hope if things work out we’ll be considered for more.”
Due For Boeing’s 777X Debut
Currently, Kawasaki’s new division is working to complete a program to ensure the resulting doors are in compliance with 777X qualifications. While production began in May, the finished doors are not expected to ship out until January 2018—in time for the new plane’s 2020 debut.
Outside of their Lincoln facility, Kawasaki is also manufacturing fuselage panels, main landing gear wells, and pressure bulkheads for the Boeing 777X.
What are your thoughts on this aerospace manufacturing development coming out of Nebraska?
Comment and tell us what you think.
Hydrogen Fuel Could Enable Zero Emission Passenger Air Travel
Air travel relies on fossil fuels and therefore represents a significant source of global CO2 pollution. Aerospace engineers at Airbus and the startup ZeroAvia see hydrogen fuel as the most viable route for eliminating net carbon emissions from air travel. Airbus has publicly released three zero-emission aircraft designs, and ZeroAvia has received millions in investment to develop zero-emission aircraft for commercial use.
3 Zero Emission Aircraft Designs From Airbus
Airbus has announced the ambitious plan to have zero-emission aircraft in service by 2035. The company’s three proposed designs are a regional 100-passenger turboprop, 120 to 200-passenger turbofan narrowbody, and a blended wing aircraft that could transport up to 200 passengers.
The turboprop would adapt gas engines for hydrogen fuel and have a range up to 1,000 nautical miles. The turbofan narrowbody could travel up 2,000 nautical miles and rely on turbofan jet engines modified for hydrogen fuel. The blended wing aircraft goes beyond modification of existing engines. The blended wing design allows for a wider fuselage that could store more hydrogen fuel.
Current Advantages Of Hydrogen For Aviation
Although electrically powered aircraft can work, battery weight limits them. Hydrogen, however, could work for aircraft in two ways. Hydrogen can power fuel cells that produce electricity for direct conversion by an engine, or hydrogen can be burned directly by a hydrogen engine.
With hydrogen appearing to be the most viable alternative to fossil fuels at the moment, ZeroAvia has been working with British Airways to learn how hydrogen could meet the demands of commercial aviation. Hydrogen can be sourced from water through electrolysis or derived from fossil fuels. If sourced from water, the CEO of British Airways said that hydrogen could provide zero-emission regional air travel by 2050.
Do you see hydrogen as the right path to zero-emission flight or should electric batteries receive more research?
As a proven leader in the global aerospace sector, Airbus designs, produces and delivers innovative solutions with the aim to create a better-connected, safer and more prosperous world.
These cutting-edge products and services – which span the commercial aircraft, helicopter, defense, security and space segments – benefit from our wide-ranging expertise and continued emphasis on innovation.
A commercial aircraft manufacturer, with Space and Defence as well as Helicopters Divisions, Airbus is the largest aeronautics and space company in Europe and a worldwide leader.
Airbus has built on its strong European heritage to become truly international – with roughly 180 locations and 12,000 direct suppliers globally. The company has aircraft and helicopter final assembly lines across Asia, Europe and the Americas, and has achieved a more than sixfold order book increase since 2000.
Aviation accounts for over 12% of total transportation emissions, growing at the fastest rate on the way to doubling by 2050. Released at high altitudes, aviation emissions have 2–4x the impact of comparable ground source emissions.
ZeroAvia enables zero-emission air travel at scale, starting with 500-mile short-haul trips, at half of today’s cost. The Novel approach removes many limitations of the current zero-emission programs. $100+ billion market in faster, safer, cleaner, more convenient local travel. Resulting market disruption creates 100,000+ unit demand in the next 10 years.
ABOUT British Airways
British Airways is a full-service global airline, offering year-round low fares with an extensive global route network flying to and from centrally-located airports.
British Airways can trace its origins back to the birth of civil aviation, the pioneering days following World War I. In the 100 years that have passed since the world’s first scheduled air service on August 25, 1919, air travel has changed beyond all recognition. Each decade saw new developments and challenges, which shaped the path for the future.
On August 25, 1919 Aircraft Transport and Travel Limited (AT&T), a forerunner company of today’s British Airways, launched the world’s first daily international scheduled air service, between London and Paris. That first flight, which took off from Hounslow Heath, close to today’s Heathrow Airport, carried a single passenger and cargo that included newspapers, Devonshire cream, jam and grouse.
3D Printing Technology Reduces Weight Of Aerospace Parts
Aircraft weight directly impacts fuel usage because more weight equals greater fuel consumption. For orbital satellites, payload weight matters when rocketing equipment off the planet. Additive manufacturing, commonly known as 3D printing, will likely prove to be vital for the future of aerospace manufacturing. Major organizations, like Airbus and NASA, have already leaned on 3D printing technology to decrease weight and enable greater versatility and speed on production lines.
3D Printing Already Prevalent At Airbus
The A350 XWB built by Airbus includes over 1,000 3D-printed parts. With this process, aerospace manufacturers can achieve 50 to 80 percent weight reductions in some parts. Even modest weight reductions, like the 15 percent lower weight of a 3D-printed spacer panel on the A320, provide significant fuel savings over the course of an aircraft’s lifetime.
The Eurostar Neo series of satellites contains 500 3D-printed parts from Airbus, including radiofrequency parts used in a satellite’s multi-waveguide blocks and switch assembly networks. In addition to reducing weight, 3D printing cuts down on manufacturing and assembly times and thereby increases production efficiency. The parts manufacturing done for the Eurostar Neo series represented a big step forward for aerospace 3D printing because Airbus mass-produced the parts. They were not limited to the prototyping and testing phases.
3D Printing’s Role In Space Flight And Exploration
The newest space rovers developed by NASA include more than 70 3D-printed parts. 3D printing can handle extremely complex parts compared to traditional manufacturing that relies on tools, dyes, and casting molds. NASA engineers use 3D printing during development and testing of space rovers because they can make quick adjustments to prototypes and improve designs relatively quickly.
The growing adoption of 3D printing within the aerospace industry indicates the precision and quality achievable with the technology. How prevalent do you think 3D printing will be in the future of manufacturing?
Airbus is an international pioneer in the aerospace industry. We are a leader in designing, manufacturing and delivering aerospace products, services and solutions to customers on a global scale. We aim for a better-connected, safer and more prosperous world. As a proven leader in the global aerospace sector, Airbus designs, produces and delivers innovative solutions with the aim to create a better-connected, safer and more prosperous world.
These cutting-edge products and services – which span the commercial aircraft, helicopter, defense, security and space segments – benefit from our wide-ranging expertise and continued emphasis on innovation. A commercial aircraft manufacturer, with Space and Defense as well as Helicopters Divisions, Airbus is the largest aeronautics and space company in Europe and a worldwide leader.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is America’s civil space program and the global leader in space exploration. The agency has a diverse workforce of just under 18,000 civil servants, and works with many more U.S. contractors, academia, and international and commercial partners to explore, discover, and expand knowledge for the benefit of humanity.
At its 20 centers and facilities across the country – and the only National Laboratory in space – NASA studies Earth, including its climate, our Sun, and our solar system and beyond. We conduct research, testing, and development to advance aeronautics, including electric propulsion and supersonic flight. We develop and fund space technologies that will enable future exploration and benefit life on Earth.
ABOUT Eurostar Neo
Airbus Defense and Space has successfully completed a key milestone in the manufacturing of the first Eurostar Neo satellite, with the successful integration of the Service and Communication Modules of EUTELSAT HOTBIRD 13F.
François Gaullier, Head of Telecom Systems at Airbus Space Systems said: “This is an important milestone for our new generation Eurostar Neo program, and is all the more remarkable having been achieved despite the Covid pandemic. With increased payload capacity and more efficient power and thermal control systems Eurostar Neo combines major innovations with tried-and-tested technologies, resulting in a product line that will be as reliable as ever while delivering the best performance in the market.”
Airbus’ Eurostar Neo platform has been developed in the frame of the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Partnership Projects, together with the French space agency CNES, and strongly supported by the UK Space Agency and other agencies across Europe.
Perseverance Touchdown On Mars A Triumph of Aerospace Technology
On Feb. 18, 2021, years of work by aerospace scientists culminated in a successful landing of the newest Mars rover Perseverance. The semi-autonomous vehicle had been traveling the solar system toward the red planet since a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket propelled it off Earth on July 30, 2020. Perseverance features several improvements over its predecessor Curiosity and has transported a helicopter to Mars that will soon attempt a flight in the Martian atmosphere.
Versatile Semi-Autonomous Robot
At roughly the size of a small car, Perseverance carries many types of equipment meant to analyze soil, search for microbes, record audio, and take pictures and video. Its robotic arm includes a coring drill. The rover carries 23 cameras.
Its semi-autonomous software represents a big advance over Curiosity. Perseverance can plan its own routes as it explores the surface and therefore cover more ground every day due to not needing to wait for instructions from Earth.
Perseverance includes an upgrade to its wheels intended to prevent the wheel wear problems experienced by Curiosity. The new rover’s wheels are 1 mm thicker and have a different tread pattern. Engineers expect the new tread design to perform well on sand and resist damage from moving across sharp rocks.
Historic Helicopter Flight Planned
Perseverance has succeeded in deploying the helicopter Ingenuity. The 2 kg helicopter has sent signals to Earth confirming its readiness to operate. Currently, Ingenuity remains connected to Perseverance which continues to charge the helicopter’s lithium batteries. Once the helicopter separates from the rover and attempts flight, it will rely on its solar panels for recharging. Should Ingenuity succeed in flight, it will represent the first controlled flight in a non-Earth atmosphere.
Are you inspired by the success of this Mars mission? What aerospace advances do think will come next?
Curiosity is about the size of a small SUV — 10 feet long (not including the arm), 9 feet wide and 7 feet tall — (about 3 meters long (not including the arm), 2.7 meters wide, and 2.2 meters tall), or about the height of a basketball player. It weighs 899 kg (1,982 lbs in Earth gravity; 743 lbs in Mars gravity). Features a Geology lab, rocker-bogie suspension, rock-vaporizing laser and lots of cameras and it’s mission to search areas of Mars for past or present conditions favorable for life, and conditions capable of preserving a record of life.
The prime mission lasted one Mars year or about 23 Earth months, and Curiosity continues to operate on Mars today.
Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun and the second-smallest planet in the Solar System, being larger than only Mercury. In English, Mars carries the name of the Roman god of war and is often referred to as the “Red Planet“.
The latter refers to the effect of the iron oxide prevalent on Mars’s surface, which gives it a reddish appearance distinctive among the astronomical bodies visible to the naked eye. Mars is a terrestrial planet with a thin atmosphere, with surface features reminiscent of the impact craters of the Moon and the valleys, deserts and polar ice caps of Earth.