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Boeing Provides Details On 787 Battery Improvements

"We've come up with a comprehensive set of solutions that result in a safer battery system," said Mike Sinnett, vice president and chief project engineer, 787 program, Boeing Commercial Airplanes. "We have found a number of ways to improve the battery system and we don't let safety improvements go once they are identified. We incorporate them into our processes and products."

Enhanced Production Controls and Operating Processes

The first layer of improvements is taking place during the manufacture of the batteries in Japan. Boeing teamed with Thales, the provider of the integrated power conversion system, and battery maker GS Yuasa to develop and institute enhanced production standards and tests to further reduce any possibility for variation in the production of the individual cells as well as the overall battery.

"We've all developed a better understanding of the sensitivities of this technology to variations during the manufacturing process," said Sinnett. "And we all feel the need to increase monitoring of this process on an ongoing basis."

Four new or revised tests have been added to screen cell production, which now includes 10 distinct tests. Each cell will go through more rigorous testing in the month following its manufacture including a 14-day test during which readings of discharge rates are being taken every hour. This new procedure started in early February and the first cells through the process are already complete. There are more than a dozen production acceptance tests that must be completed for each battery.

Boeing, Thales and GS Yuasa have also decided to narrow the acceptable level of charge for the battery, both by lowering the highest charge allowed and raising the lower level allowed for discharge. Two pieces of equipment in the battery system – the battery monitoring unit and the charger are being redesigned to the narrower definition. The battery charger will also be adapted to soften the charging cycle to put less stress on the battery during charging.

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