The creation of a fifth production line for the basic composite materials Boeing is using in its newest airliners is moving swiftly toward completion in Frederickson.
The 100,000-square-foot addition to Toray Composites America’s Frederickson production plant is approaching 65 percent complete, said contractor Merit Construction Northwest. Toray makes composite “pre-preg,” a tape made of carbon fibers impregnated with epoxy and a catalyst, which Boeing uses to construct much of the structure of its newest planes, the 787 Dreamliner and the 777X twin jet.
Composites are replacing aluminum in much of aircraft construction because the material is light weight and doesn’t corrode.
That tape is applied to a mandrel in the shape of the finished part and baked in an autoclave, a giant oven, until it forms a single, strong, lightweight part.
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The Toray plant is adjacent to Boeing’s Frederickson fabrication plant where the company builds, among other parts, the composite tails for its 777 aircraft.
Boeing expanded the use of composites in its 787 which has much of its fuselage formed of composites as well as its wings and tail.
The upcoming 777X also will have composite wings which will be built in a new plant Boeing is building at its Everett wide-body aircraft site. Toray is the major supplier for Boeing composite aircraft.
Building construction at the Frederickson site is due to be complete by the third week of July, said Merit. The new structure will house the plant’s fifth production line. The existing Toray plant has some 350,000 of space.
The opening of that fifth production line late this year will require Toray to hire about 100 new workers, the company said. That hiring will raise the workforce at the Japanese company’s Pierce County plant to about 600 workers.
The plant’s parking lot is also being expanded to handle the additional vehicles used by the new workers, said Tom Motland, project development manager for Merit.