Boeing to build next airplane in virtual reality
US aircraft manufacturer Boeing is set on moving its production to the virtual reality world within the next two years, its chief engineer, Greg Hyslop, revealed.
“It’s about strengthening engineering. We are talking about changing the way we work across the entire company,” Hyslop told Reuters.
The company’s “factory of the future” will include immersive 3D engineering designs, interactive robots and mechanics scattered worldwide but linked by HoloLens headsets. Boeing will build and link virtual 3D “digital twin” replicas of its new aircraft and the production system in order to run simulations. A “digital thread” will incorporate all information about the aircraft from the start, including airline requirements, parts specifications and certification documents. The company plans to invest $15 billion into its production evolution.
The engineer says that over 70% of quality issues at Boeing can be traced back to design issues, and dumping aging paper-based practices could be the basis of positive change.
“You will get speed, you will get improved quality, better communication, and better responsiveness when issues occur,” Hyslop said.
The company expects a new aircraft based on the renovated production approach to hit the market in four to five years.
“When the quality from the supply base is better, when the airplane build goes together more smoothly, when you minimize rework, the financial performance will follow from that,” the engineer added.
Although some critics are suspicious about Boeing’s potential digital revolution, insiders cited by Reuters say it is high time for the company to step up efforts to improve quality and safety after its recent misfortunes.
Earlier this month, the aircraft manufacturer appeared to have recovered its major markets after the 737 MAX crisis, which saw the company’s most popular plane universally banned from taking to the skies after two deadly accidents in late 2018 and early 2019. In a big win for the company, China cleared Boeing 737 MAX planes to return to flying, with technical upgrades. The EU did the same earlier this year, while the US, Brazil, Panama and Mexico greenlighted the aircraft in late 2020.
Yet, amid the crisis, many airlines switched to aircraft from Boeing’s major rival Airbus, with some still uneager to welcome Boeing back. Most recently, Australian national airline Qantas Airways picked Airbus as its preferred supplier to replace its domestic – largely Boeing – fleet.
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