Portable Accelerated Cure System

Boeing manufactures the tail assemblies for the 787 Dreamliner at three facilities around the world, including one in West Jordan, Utah. The 787 tail is built around a 38-foot long composite spar box, which must be machined and sealed after it is removed from the autoclave. Three layers of sealant applied to the edge require 23 hours to cure, creating a bot-tleneck in the production process.

To reduce this bottleneck, Boeing requested a portable accelerated cure system (PACS) capable of cutting the sealant cure time by 75%, using as few custom-made parts as possible. Using an off-the-shelf pipe heater and car-pentry clamps, plus a carbon-fiber composite pipe and custom polyethylene clamp inserts, Team Dream Seal designed a PACS module that cuts the sealant cure time to 5.5 hours. The pipe is cut in half along its length and the pipe heater is secured inside one half; the module is then clamped to the edge of the spar box. A Velcro strip prevents hot air from escaping. The temperature of the cure is controlled by a Heatcon HSC9200B Hot Bonder, which receives a signal from a thermocouple embedded in the upper half of the PACS module, near the sealant-covered edge. Parts and materials for each module cost less than $400, and the module can be constructed in only a few hours.

Although designed specifically for the 787 horizontal stabilizer spar box, the PACS module can be adapted for many other applications with ease. Boeing anticipates saving millions of dollars each year in reduced edge seal cycle time. The company has filed a patent on the technology and will introduce it on the production line at the West Jordan facility and other locations within months.

School Year (term): 
Boeing West Jordan
Team Name: 
Dream Seal
Mike Ridges
Team Members: 
Isabel Calderon, Eli Fielden, Christopher Kovalenko, Iggy Matheson, Taylor Petersen, Shane Rahrle

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