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There’s more to Boeing than Dreamliners

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BR&T-SC is leading automation development and application, including the use of robotics to improve teammate safety and increase efficiency.


henever most Lowcountry residents think of Boeing, they understandably picture the 787 Dreamliner airplanes that are manufactured, assembled and delivered at the company’s North Charleston facility. But that is only part of Boeing’s presence in the area. Just off the Palmetto Commerce Parkway in North Charleston is the newest component of their operation, Boeing Research & Technology - South Carolina (BR&T-SC).

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BR&T-SC teammate Brandon Mulligan sets up a tensile strength test in the test machine.

The 104,000 square-foot research center, which opened in 2015, focuses on seven key areas: assembly and automation; production analytics and advanced test systems; composite fabrication, materials and repair; inspection and nondestructive evaluation; chemical technology; electromagnetic effects; and modeling and characterization. The facility is leading Boeing’s research and development in composites, robotics, and other advanced manufacturing technologies. It is one of 11 Boeing research centers worldwide.

“As an industry we face many challenges in defining the future of aerospace. We must find new technologies that enable us to design, build and test the next generation of innovation,” says Lane Ballard, vice president of Materials and Manufacturing Technology. “The research and technology being generated at BR&T-SC allows close collaboration and alignment between BR&T and Boeing South Carolina, but also supports Boeing teams and products all across our company.”

BR&T-SC is currently working on several projects that will change future airplane manufacturing. For example, BR&T researchers are transforming the way airplane decorative finishes are applied from current practices, such as masking and painting, to technologies of the future, such as ink printing. The team is utilizing a comprehensive approach that intersects automation, printing and ink chemical technologies to create an airline’s intricate and detailed brand imagery.

Another facet of the team is taking the lessons learned in composites manufacturing at Boeing South Carolina to shape next-generation composite technologies. This group is designing and fabricating composite structures in order to accelerate and demonstrate new technologies. 

BR&T-SC is also leading in aerospace automation development and application. The team is developing adaptable, affordable automation hardware and programming in order to more readily deploy robotics in areas that improve worker safety and save time.

“These are just a few of the many projects our team is working on here in South Carolina,” Ballard says. “We are helping to shape the future of Boeing and the future of aviation.”

“As an industry we face many challenges in defining the future of aerospace. We must find new technologies that enable us to design, build and test the next generation of innovation.”
– Lane Ballard, Vice President of Materials and Manufacturing Technology

BR&T-SC teammates Phil Johnson and Megan Watson study composite repair plies while conducting 787 repair development research.

BR&T-SC teammate Rachel Chow works with a collaborative robot to test its joint sensitivity.

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