Tokyo, November 17, 2011 - Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd. (MHI) is about to introduce a second autoclave into the Fabrication Factory at its Oye Plant of the company's Nagoya Aerospace Systems Works in Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture, for use in forming the shape of composite-material wing boxes for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, the next-generation super-efficient mid-size airplane. The second autoclave, which is being installed in response to Boeing's plans to boost production of the 787, is the same type as the first - one of the world's largest - in operation at the factory since 2006. The autoclave performs curing and shape forming of the composite-material prepregs that are layered into the shape of a wing box under high temperature and high pressure.
The autoclave, cylindrical in shape, measures 8 meters (m) in exterior diameter and 40m in length and weighs 700 tons. Indispensable for the production of 30m-long composite-material wings, it can accommodate placement of either the upper or lower half of a full-size wing box for cocuring, enabling stable increases in high-precision production of uniform quality. The autoclave was designed and partly manufactured by Ashida Mfg. Co., Ltd.; Hiroshima Ryoju Engineering Co., Ltd., a wholly owned subsidiary of MHI located at its Hiroshima Machinery Works, made the can body. The autoclave was transported from Hiroshima by ship, arrived at the pier adjacent to the Oye Plant on November 15, and was brought to the Fabrication Factory today.
The Boeing 787 is the first airliner to adopt composite-material wings. The first plane was delivered to All Nippon Airways, the launch customer, in September and is now in service. MHI undertakes production of the wing boxes for the 787 and manufactures them at the Fabrication and Assembly Factories at its Oye Plant. As production of the 787 has expanded, MHI has already increased its installations of processing machines, including water-jet cutting machines for the skin and composite-material layup equipment. The addition of the second autoclave completes the structure required to increase production to the needed level.
MHI has been engaged in research and development of composite materials and provided many composite-material components and parts for long-range business jets, defense-use aircraft and satellite launch vehicles. By undertaking production of wing boxes for the 787, an aircraft for which large demand is expected over the long term, MHI looks to establish unrivaled technological expertise in the design and manufacture of large-size composite-material wing boxes as a way of contributing to the development of various airplanes in the aerospace field.