When Boeing undertook upgrades to 13 paint stations used to prime aircraft fuselages, they turned to FSi as the prime consultant and mechanical engineer for our expertise in paint facility ventilation systems, and for our ability to effectively lead teams.
The upgrades centered around improving ventilation, to support worker health and safety, as well as the quality of the paint application. This meant providing consistent, controllable airflow at all surfaces of the fuselage, even the irregularly-shaped and hard-to-reach areas.
Each of the 13 stations is specially designed for a different model of aircraft, and required a different ventilation configuration. We carefully observed the painters at work to understand their workflow, then made sure our design supported their work rather than getting in the way. We used CFD airflow analysis to vet the configuration of air inlets and exhaust, as well as the optimal air volume and velocity at each station.
Making the system work for the painters was paramount. They were the experts at how the system needed to work, although they were not necessarily experts at reading CAD drawings. We developed 3D renderings and fly-through graphics to help the painters visualize the new system. With the 3D graphics, they were able to identify several conflicts between our design and their work practices, and we were able to make adjustments prior to construction to meet their needs. This was critical to meeting the fast-track schedule for the project, as well as ensuring the new systems would improve efficiency rather than get in the way of the painters doing their work.
And it worked. The project was constructed on-schedule, and received accolades from the painters. The fast-track project improved air quality, reduced waste, and improved the efficiency and quality of the painting process. The project received an ACEC-Washington Engineering Excellence Silver Award for Complexity.
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