At Boeing’s Everett manufacturing plant, the sound of progress is a very high-pitched whirring noise. In order to keep up with rising demand for the 777, Boeing has increased production to 100 of those planes in a year, up from 84 planes a year.
To make that big a jump in production, Boeing needed to improve its manufacturing efficiency at its Everett, Wash. plant. To do that, Boeing replaced human painters with robots.
The system they use is known as Automated Spray Method, or ASM for short. It features a pair of robotic arms with two spray heads that work on either side of the 106-foot-long 777 wing to apply paint and other coatings.
What’s unique about these robots is their ability to simultaneously spray on two different paints in a single pass with extreme precision. “You’re taking a product that took hours, and it literally lasted minutes,” said Jason Clark, Director of Manufacturing for the 777, in the video linked above. That time savings translates directly into more wings getting painted, and that in turn means that there are more aircraft rolling off the line.
For aerospace buffs wondering about the future home of manufacturing for Boeing’s 777X aircraft, it would appear Everett may have gotten the nod to do so. According to the Seattle Times, Clark mentioned that the booth is “designed to take the length of the 777X wing.”
It seems that at least for now, none of the members of the team that used to paint the 777′s wings have lost their jobs. Clark told the Times that nobody had been laid off as a result of the installation of ASM.
Previously on GeekWire: Amazon vet’s new robot-powered apparel startup aims to revolutionize how we buy clothes
Blair Hanley Frank is a technology journalist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. He has also worked for Macworld, PCWorld and TechHive. He can be found on Twitter @belril.