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estled between the 767 and the 747 in terms of size, the Boeing 777 is the worlds largest twinengine airplane. It was initially conceived as an enlarged version of the 767, but it grew to 85% of the 747 in actual size, and sports a wingspan of nearly 200 feet and a fuselage approximately 11 feet in diameter. Its passenger seating and range combination put it in a unique niche that has allowed development of a generation of stretch and range variants. To enable such a large twinengine airplane, Boeing had to achieve significant reductions in structural weight while maintaining overall affordability. This was made possible by the development of breakthrough materials. The 777 Program enabled the maturation of a large number of materials that were under development in the mid- to late-1980s. Materials that were transitioned into production included new advanced 7000 and 2000 series aluminum alloys, damage-tolerant composites, and advanced titanium alloys. These materials as well as non-structural materials advances enabled a reduction in weight of over 5800 pounds.

The Boeing 777

The development of the Boeing 777 was made possible by the development of breakthrough materials that allowed reductions in structural weight while maintaining affordability.

used extensively in interface areas. In addition, titanium replaced many steel components in the landing gear and engine strut area in an effort to reduce weight and improve corrosion resistance. Although structural materials receive the most attention, it is important to note that the 777 also paved the way for a wide variety of nonstructural advanced materials. Significant material applications included the introduction of improved passenger windows, and dust covers more resistant to the environment and more able to withstand wear and tear. More-durable materials were also developed and implemented for insulation blankets, interior paints, decorative inks, cargo floors, and cargo liners. Furthermore, many of these improved materials also generated significant weight savings.

Alloy developments During the waning days of the mid1980s, a frustrated Boeing and its aluminum suppliers shut down masBrian Smith sive efforts to develop aluminumBoeing Aircraft Co. lithium alloys. As a result of this exSeattle, Washington perience, Boeing initiated a process with these suppliers in which alloys were first studied on paper. Suppliers were asked to proThe aluminum airplane pose various what if alloys for major structural applications. From a structural-weight standpoint, the 777 is primarily These what if alloys were evaluated for benefit and afan aluminum airplane. Seventy percent of the overall strucfordability. This unique approach allowed promising alture is aluminum, including the wing box and fuselage. Of loys to be identified early on and, unlike their aluminumcourse, the aluminum alloys are not the garden-variety lithium counterparts, these alloys were robust to price and aerospace materials of the past. These are engineered alproperty changes during loys offering improved development. strength, toughness, and The what if process focorrosion resistance. cused on advanced alDespite the predomiloys for wing and fusenance of aluminum, the lage applications. For 777 does contain signifithe wing, Boeing identicantly more composite fied a general need for materials by weight than higher-strength alloys earlier Boeing aircraft. with good toughness The vertical fin, horiand improved corrosion zontal stabilizers, and resistance relatively passenger-floor beams standard targets. Howutilize a Boeing/supplier ever, in the case of the developed toughened, fuselage, Boeing had just damage-resistant carbon completed a rigorous refiber epoxy resin system. view of fatigue and corTitanium alloy imrosion issues in its fleet provements are critical of aging airplanes. This in combating the galvanic potential differThe Boeing 777-300ERs new semi-levered landing gear system has performed effort brought into focus ence between aluminum flawlessly during the flight-test program. The unique gear, which is manufactured by the need for advances and Carbon Fiber Rein- Goodrich Corp., allows the airplane to rotate early by shifting the center of rotation in toughness, fatigue forced Plastic (CFRP), from the main axle to aft axle of the three-axle landing gear truck. As the airplane crack growth resistance, and corrosion resistance. and titanium alloys are rotates, the nose is allowed to rise higher earlier. ADVANCED MATERIALS & PROCESSES/SEPTEMBER 2003 41

As a result of this innovative process, Boeing and Alcoa were able to generate and bring to market a number of breakthrough alloys and heat treatments. The advanced fuselage alloy 2524 yielded significant improvements in the design properties associated with fuselage skin durability. To further address fleet corrosion issues, 777 designers worked diligently to maintain the clad surface on the interior of the airplane, particularly in the moisture-laden bilge area. This material breakthrough was

married with advancements in 7000 series alloy heat treatment (T77511 retrogression re-age), which allowed higher-strength 7150 materials for fuselage extruded stringers. The result was a structure that is tougher, stronger, and more corrosion-resistant than earlier designs. The same technological breakthroughs that enabled application of 7150 alloys on the fuselage, were also incorporated into wing alloy what if studies. These studies identified a candidate alloy that had a particularly unique combination of properties, pricing, and corrosion resistance: 7055T7751. This alloy provides a nearly 10% gain in strength, with higher toughness and significantly improved corrosion resistance. Toughened carbon fiber epoxy Efforts to develop an improved carbon fiber epoxy resin system date back to the early- to mid-1980s. These efforts also originated with Boeings in-service fleet experience. Since the production of the 757 and 767, airline customers have had to contend with thin-gage composite structures in a wide number of applications. Complaints about this materials sensitivity to impact damage and the difficulty of repair were many. In response to these complaints, Boeing initiated and led a significant effort to develop a toughened epoxy matrix that would be more resistant to damage. Supplier efforts were repeatedly thwarted by the negative impact of toughening agents on hot/wet compression strength. Fortunately for Boeing, Toray had been working diligently on a resin system that involved a toughening interlayer. The resulting system set a new standard for toughness and strength in composite material technology. Impact test results demonstrated to the airlines that this new system also suffered significantly less damage, and that such damage could be repaired in a manner similar to repair of existing aluminum structures. This breakthrough in CFRP toughness was optimized to enable Continuous Tape Laying Machines (CTLM) to fabricate structures, resulting in reduced manufacturing costs. The new toughened matrix CFRP is used for the main box cover panels and the main box spars. The main torque box cover panel consists of an integrally

747 777 767

757 707/720 Regional and intercontinental market flexibility State-of-the-art, service-ready features and technology Industry-leading performance and economics Range and capacity growth ensure future family commonality 737 1950 1960 1970 1980 1990 2000


Boeing aircraft and the years they were introduced into service.
Durability improved Weight saved

Alloys: Ti 10-2-3 Al 2XXX-T3, -T42, -T36 Al 7055-T77 Al 7150-T77 Ti- 6-4 ELI Ti 15 -3 -3 3 Ti B21S Ti 6-2-4-2 Composites: Toughened CFRP Pitch core Perforated CFRP/Nomex 4: Crown stringers

9: Fin and stabilizer 3: Upper skin and stringers 4: Upper spar 2: Aft chord bulkhead 4: Seat tracks 9: Floor beams

5: Stabilizer attach fittings

4: Keel beam 4: Belly stringers 2: Fuselage skin 1: Truck beam and braces

8: Aft heat shield 8: Engine mounts

6: ECS ducting


Glare bulk cargo floor 6013 Al alloy Lightweight sealants Al mesh AV-30 corrosion inhibiting compound Dense core potting CFRP comp. cascade Al-Li 8090 sound damping angles RTM CFRP chine

7: Tail cone outer sleeve 7: Tail cone plug 7 & 8: Aft core cowl 10 & 11: Thrust reverser cowl 11: Inlet cowl inner barrel

Breakout of advanced materials on the 777.



1% 11% 7% 11% Fracture toughness Kapp, ksi-in.1/2 2XXX



Misc. Steel Titanium Composites Aluminum

2XXX 17% improvement in toughness 150 2024

Fatigue crack growth rate da/dN, m-in./cycle



60% slower fatigue crack growth 2024 2XXX

Aluminum alloys and other advanced materials by weight on the Boeing 777.

stiffened skin with I-section stiffeners at a constant spacing. The basic skin ply lay-ups are quite simple, with doublers inserted as pre-kitted units. This approach permits the panels to be laid up by the CTLM, resulting in significant cost reductions. To achieve accurate part control, the stiffeners are pre-cured and co-bonded to the skin panel during the panel cure cycle. Titanium alloys Titanium applications have increased with each major commercial airplane introduction. In the case of the 777, the use of titanium was expanded into previous CFRP structure areas to minimize the risk of galvanic corrosion that is present with aluminum. For this application, betaannealed Ti-6Al-4V ELI (Extra Low Interstitial) was introduced into the commercial fleet, and it provides the maximum damage tolerance properties for titanium alloys. Titanium was also selected for landing gear components. The single largest titanium application, and perhaps the biggest challenge, was applying Ti 10-2-3 to the main landing gear truck beam. This application challenged Boeings metallurgists to develop tight process controls for welding the three pieces that made up this component. (Note: As part of a subsequent cost reduction effort, Boeing ultimately converted the three forgings to a single forging.) The resulting truck beam saved substantial weight and also resulted in a design without the typical corrosion and paint damage risks associated with high-strength steel landing gear components. Titanium alloy developments in the early- to mid-1980s were pushed into new product forms and applications for the 777 as well. While earlier Boeing airplanes included titanium for landing-gear springs and high-

100 40 50 60 70 Typical tensile yield strength, ksi

10 10 20 30 40 Stress intensity factor Kmax, ksi-in.1/2

Toughened 2000 series aluminum alloy properties. This alloy is for the body skin.

7055-T77 7150-T77

Pitting Corrosion performance, exfoliation rating

A 7075T73 B Goodness C 7075-T6 D 7150-T6 Traditional strength/ corrosion behavior 7050T76 7150T77 7055T77

Severe 60 65 70 75 80 85 Compresssion yield strength, ksi 90 95

Advances in 7000 series corrosion-resistant aluminum alloys.



Lower wing surface (increased durability)

Upper wing surface (increased strength)

Fracture toughness Kapp, ksi/in.1/2

200 2324-T39 Type II

150 2024-T351 100 2324-T39

193 0s -

199 0s 196 2224-T3511 0s


197 0s -

Ch alle nge

7150-T651 7055-T7751

50 7178-T651



80 Typical yield strength, ksi


Advanced aluminum alloys with higher toughness and improved corrosion resistance.



temperature environmental control ducting, these alloys had several performance and inservice shortcomings. During the design of the 777, Boeings metallurgists worked closely with parts manufacturers to upgrade to Ti 15-3-3-3 for both clock-type springs and ducting. Another major step forward was the selection of Beta-21S titanium for the engine plug and nozzle hot structure, normally fabricated of nickel-base alloys. Beta-21S, developed for its high resistance to oxidation, resulted in significant weight reduction for this exhaust component. Non-structural materials In the interest of creating a preferred airplane, Boeings materials engineers concentrated on every detail, and identified the potential for breakthroughs in some less obvious areas, for example: By filling traditional sealants with microballoons, over 300 pounds of weight was eliminated while keeping the same basic properties. Through detailed analyses and tests, Boeing confirmed that an entire coat of paint could be eliminated from the lower portion of the fuselage interior. Amazingly, while this change eliminated 3.6 square inches 0.5 square inch over 250 pounds of Comparative composite material damage resistance. After a weight, the primary dri270 in.-lb impact, the conventional composite material on the ving force behind its inleft shows much more damage than the new 777 advanced com- corporation was imposite material on the right. proved paint adhesion
Ti-6Al-4V, beta annealed: 1980s damage tolerant structure Goodness

and better corrosion resistance. These changes typify the innovative thinking that enabled the development of a preferred airplane in terms of cost, weight, and affordability. Boeing 777 to 7E7 The 777 represented a breakthrough in materials applications for commercial aircraft. The introduction of this airplane was well-timed to drive a number of critical advances in materials technologies to maturity, with the end result being implementation. The rate of incorporation for these advances onto the 777 is remarkable, and reflects the high degree of alignment in research work over the five years preceding the design effort. This research was clearly focused on fleet concerns raised by airlines, and the deliberate development of enhanced performance materials that were costeffective. Just as the 777 was a breakthrough in terms of materials applications, the 7E7 promises to provide an even greater opportunity for innovation, both in technical advances and in the creation of the cooperative process needed to develop these technologies with our global partners. To compete against products that are based on many of the same material technologies found on the 777, the 7E7 engineers must consider further technology breakthroughs and expand the application of advanced technologies beyond the current norm. Fortunately, materials development in the last five years has been promising. Today, confidence has increased in composites as a primary structure, based on 777 successes. Encouraging progress has been made in aluminum, steel and titanium technologies. Finally, understanding the need for environmentally responsible processes has also grown. Many technologies are now maturing in this area and offer an opportunity to design and produce an airplane that is not only cost and performance preferred, but more environmentally friendly s than airplanes of the past.
For more information: Brian Smith is the Chief Engineer of Commercial Airplane Boeing Materials Technology Organization at the Boeing Airplane Co., Seattle, Washington; tel: 425/237-3516; e-mail: brian.w.smith@boeing.com.

100 Fracture toughness KIC, ksi-in.1/2 90 80 70 60 50 40 30

VT-22STA: 2000s, damage tolerant forgings

Ti-6Al-4V, mill annealed: 1960s general structure

Ti-10V-2Fe-3Al STA: 1980s, high Ti-6Al-6Vstrength forgings 2Sn/Ti-6Al-4V VT-22 STA: STA: 1960s general 2000s, high structure strength



160 Ultimate tensile strength, ksi



Titanium alloy development has progressed in both strength and toughness.