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Scaled Technology Works to Provide Wind Tunnel Blades

  • Wednesday, 1st November 2000
  • Reading time: about 3 minutes

Scaled Technology Works (STW) of Montrose, Colorado, has been awarded a contract from The Boeing Company to design and produce nearly 200 composite wind tunnel blades over the next year. STW will be responsible for providing all new fan blades for the upgraded Boeing Transonic Wind Tunnel (BTWT) in Seattle, Washington. Boeing is upgrading the BTWT to incorporate several new advances in the tunnel architecture. Installation of new fan blades is expected to improve aerodynamic efficiency and to reduce blade maintenance costs. STW will create a finite element analysis of the blades and use its proven composite design techniques to ensure the blades meet the dynamic environment of the BTWT. The 18-inch-wide by 40-inch-long blades will be manufactured by a manual lay-up process using fiberglass/epoxy prepreg from one of several qualified suppliers. The blades’ skins will be laid up over a structural foam core from General Plastics. Precise, aerodynamic, geometric tolerances will be met using graphite epoxy composite tooling, also produced by STW. Bill Wailes, STW president commented, “Our objective is to produce the blades with the same basic design and shape as the original blades. The existing composite blades have been in service since 1953. They have done their job well for more than 40 years. We plan to capitalize on this history — avoiding radical design changes, yet offering the improvements afforded by current aerospace-grade materials and advanced manufacturing techniques.” The most significant change will be in the design of the laminate to allow for the new materials and processes to be used. The improved blades will have a more tightly controlled outer surface, and, because of the more robust materials, will have a greater tolerance to damage than the original blades. “These improvements are important to achieve the high quality Boeing demands for the upgraded BTWT,” said Wailes. Boeing shut down their wind tunnel for the current modifications in June of this year. The facility will be brought back on line for system level checkout in March of 2001. STW will deliver enough blades for a complete rotor set (72 blades plus 8 spares) by April and will deliver the remaining 100 blades by October 2001. The new blades will be installed in April. STW designs, produces and delivers fully integrated composite structural components, major assemblies and complete general aviation aircraft. The company’s primary market focus encompasses the general aviation, commercial and military aircraft industries. STW is a subsidiary of Precision Castparts Corp. (NYSE: PCP) of Portland, Oregon.

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