Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd. (MHI) has completed the construction of an assembly factory in Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture, that will build the composite-material wing boxes of the next-generation super-efficient Boeing 787 aircraft. A completion ceremony was held today at the factory, which is located at the Oye Plant of MHI's Nagoya Aerospace Systems Works. The assembly factory will closely coordinate with an adjoining composite-material fabrication factory that undertakes forming of composite material parts for the wing boxes such as wing skins, and Yamatomachi Plant at its Shimonoseki Shipyard and Machinery Works in Yamaguchi that produces skin stringers, one of reinforcement components of 787 wing boxes, to form an integrated manufacturing structure that spans from parts forming to wing box assembly.
The assembly factory has a total floor space of approximately 35,000 square meters (377,000 square feet) - 234 meters long and 90 meters wide - with a ceiling height of 30 meters (at the highest part). Upon inauguration, the factory will initially be operated by approximately 300 employees. The assembly factory will build approximately 30-meter long wing boxes by assembling parts produced at the fabrication plant such as upper and lower wing skins, spars and ribs, and stringers produced at Yamatomachi Plant in Shimonoseki. The fabrication factory and stringer production factory have already been constructed and are preparing for commercial-production, respectively. After being installed various equipment and machinery, the assembly factory will start production of the wing box and aims its first shipment in the next spring.
The completed wing boxes are transported by ship from the pier adjoining to the assembly plant to Central Japan International Airport (Centrair), and then sent to the Boeing Everett Plant in Washington by special cargo airplanes dedicated to the wing box transport.
The composite material to be used for the wing boxes is carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP), and this will be the first time this material is used in 30-meter long wing boxes. CFRP is superior in strength and rigidity compared with conventional aluminum or titanium alloys. According to Boeing, lighter airframes enabled by adoption of composite-material, in combination with newly developing engines, the airplane design to minimize drag based on most advanced aerodynamics and others, will provide a 20% improvement in fuel efficiency and a reduction in maintenance costs, compared with conventional aircraft.
MHI has engaged in research and development in the area of composite materials for a long time and already boasts a solid record in supplying various components, including those used in long-haul business jets, Japan Defense Agency aircraft and rockets. Based on this experience, MHI is now taking responsibility for the wing boxes of the Boeing 787, an aircraft that is expected to attract orders for more than 1,000 units over the next 20 years. In the process, MHI will achieve unequalled technological expertise in the design and manufacture of large-scale composite-material wings, thereby consolidating its position as a global center of aircraft wing production.