CCM Provides Boeing Employees Hands-on Training

27 January 2006

With support from the University of Delaware’s Engineering Outreach Program, their Center for Composite Materials (CCM) created a series of courses for Boeing’s Philadelphia-area aerospace engineers and technicians.

In 2004, CCM produced COMP 101, which focused on the basics of composites manufacturing and included tours of the centre’s laboratories. Based on the success of the first course, Boeing officials requested a more advanced class. COMP 201 was offered in 2005. Hands-on training included infusion of a CH-47 working platform

On two consecutive Saturdays in November, 17 Boeing employees completed the 15-hour, hands-on course. “I think it's most impressive that these people came here for training on the weekends,” says Dirk Heider, Assistant Director for Technology at CCM and Research Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. “The fact that they used their free time to take the course really demonstrates their motivation to learn about composites.”

Heider also notes that most of those who took COMP 101 last year returned for the follow-on course. Plans are now underway for a third-year class, and input from former participants is being considered in planning for its content and format.

Participants in COMP 201 used the College of Engineering 's eCALCII facility to model the infusion of a composite beam with the LIMS (Liquid Injection Molding Simulation) software. They then carried that knowledge forward to facilities in CCM's Composites Manufacturing Science Laboratory, where they infused a part. The subsequent week-long break enabled CCM lab personnel to break the parts so that the participants could carry out destructive testing in Spencer Laboratory during the second session the following week.

The hands-on facet of the course was very popular and very effective, according to Heider and confirmed by participants. “I liked how the instruction was complemented with lab work,” said one. “The labs were great,” said another. “Hands-on was by far the biggest advantage,” said a third, who was new to working with composites and plans to use the knowledge in future design work and applications.

In addition to the destructive testing of the simple composite beam, Day 2 included a session during which participants made an actual part for the Boeing CH47 helicopter. “This will be a production part made by one of Boeing's suppliers via the VARTM process,” Heider says.

“Our use of a rapid prototyping program enabled the Boeing employees to make a section of the complex part using VARTM in two hours,” he continues. “Many of them had been involved in the design of the part at Boeing, and the work done here during the class allowed them to see how it actually infused. They had had extensive experience with prepregging but not with liquid molding processes.” One participant said that he plans on using LIMS to verify vendor suggestions for gate and vent locations.

“The feedback has been outstanding,” says Kathleen C. Werrell, Assistant Dean for Engineering Outreach, “to the extent that Boeing is asking us to create another course, plus offer this one for those who could not participate this time.” Werrell credits Patrick Hailstone with promoting the course at Boeing. “He has really been our Boeing in-house marketing person, spreading the word among his colleagues, making sure they register, and getting their HR department to approve the course,” she says.

To date, all of the participants have been from Boeing's Philadelphia plant. However, according to John Lyons, a manager at Boeing and a member of UD's Engineering Outreach Advisory Committee, there is a lot of interest in the composites courses provided by CCM outside the Boeing-Philadelphia area.

“CCM and Engineering Outreach have done an outstanding job providing Boeing with a unique training opportunity that helps bridge the gap between design theory and practical use for composites,” says Lyons . “I'm looking forward to working with them to figure out a way to make the courses available to other Boeing sites.”

Heider sees another positive fallout from the courses: “Some of the Boeing engineers in Philadelphia have expressed an interest in working with us to apply the VARTM process to their other parts. We've demonstrated to them that we have a unique capability, and a new relationship is being formed as a result of that. Boeing management realizes that the company can benefit from not only our educational offerings but also our technology.”

Boeing's Lyons concurs. “ Our interest in CCM's capabilities has increased dramatically over the past year,” he says. “This course is just one example of how Boeing and the University can work together to solve industry challenges in composites.”

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