Boeing Commercial Airplanes completed a 90,000-ft2 expansion to a precision machining operation in Helena, Mont., in preparation for processing some critical parts of its forthcoming 777X aircraft. The Boeing Helena operations specialize in complex machining of hard metals for Boeing 737, 747, 767, and 787 models.
Now covering a total of 257,000-ft2, Boeing Helena will be outfitted with new machine tools for machining titanium parts, including side-of-body chords, and terminal end fittings that will connect the wings to the 777X fuselage.
Strong but lightweight, titanium presents difficulties for precision machining because the material’s hardness requires high-strength cutting tools, capable of high speed and advanced controls, as well as sophisticated cooling functions to offset the effects of high-powered machining on hard materials. The most discussed example of the latter is cryogenic machining, which channels liquid nitrogen to the cutting tool.