Boeing has a number of different product lines with different requirements. Can you discuss what those requirements are and how composites can be beneficial for multiple product lines?

The material requirements of a satellite differ from the requirements of a launch vehicle, but both benefit from the light-weighting that evaluation of composites might provide in a trade study. A missile and a commercial airplane might have long life requirements, but the environment over that lifetime might be quite different. Materials used for commercial aircraft interiors have different requirements than materials at the hot leading edge of a fighter jet.

The requirements of a helicopter blade are not the same as those of an environmental control system duct. Achieving performance targets with an acceptable cost assessment and a stable supply chain to achieve the needed rate are required for both. The cost equation includes acquisition and life cycle considerations, such as supportability and end of life considerations. Regarding rate, in our products rates could range from a one-time delivery to demands for thousands of pounds of material or parts, depending on the product line.

What is most important to Boeing: Material improvements, process improvements or the speed of material production?

Material improvements can drive down weight, waste or reduce the need for parasitic systems like thermal barriers. Material properties cannot be isolated from processes because processing influences the material properties and variations – these are the types of defects that can occur during processing. As I just mentioned, speed is of interest for some of our product lines to meet the demands of thousands of pounds of material or thousands of parts.

Of course, speed can also be of interest to other product lines in terms of agility for product changes on the line (for example, handling disruption, out of flow work, model changes, etc.) and for things like cost reduction (for example, completing a task or a part in one shift rather than two).