Boeing Tubing Insulation Installation

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Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Source: Boeing
Sponsors The Boeing Company
Team Name Boeing Insulation Installation Group (BIG)
Duration Fall 2018 - Spring 2019
Faculty Adviser Dr. Steve Beyerlein
Mentor Sarah Willis
Client The Boeing Company
Team Members
  • Kaleb Halen
  • Isaac Fisher
  • Michael Odell
  • Richard Baptista

The goal of this design project is to propose a defect-free solution to reduce assembly time and to improve ergonomics at The Boeing Company's Tubing, Ducting and Reservoir Center.

Problem Definition[edit]

The Boeing Insulation-Installation Group (BIG) is tasked with the objective of introducing novel tooling and manufacturing processes to insulate tubing components for The Boeing Company. Goals include improving the overall ergonomics and efficiency of the manufacturing process currently orchestrated by The Boeing Company's Tubing, Ducting and Reservoir Center (TDRC).


The Boeing Company’s TDRC facility in Auburn, WA assembles, tests and prepares all tubing, ducting and reservoirs for The Boeing Company. One of the project design criteria included; applying closed cell insulation to a formed titanium tube. It is common for tubes to be bent into various geometries, including the main component of focus. The current installation procedure requires an operator to manually force insulation over the bent tubing without any sort of mechanical assistance. This can create an ergonomic risk, as it is taxing on the operator who may have to complete dozens of these insulated tube assemblies a day. Likewise, it reduces the production output of the facility since no assistance is being provided to help ease the process.


It is necessary for the tubing installation to be defect-free, consistent, user-friendly and reduce current manufacturing times. The proposed method/tooling developed by BIG must be reviewed by the project sponsor. The method/tooling will need to be safe for the operator, equipment and facility. The design will reduce risk to the operator by considering ergonomic parameters to ensure optimal use. Likewise, considerations will be taken into the design to ensure that the operator, equipment and environment are not at risk of injury/damage. Proper fatigue and fracture analysis will be conducted on components to determine safe operating life, as well as scheduled maintenance/inspection intervals and procedures.


The device should be a user friendly mechanism that simplifies the installation process and increases productivity. Ideally the device should be able to meet the following requirements:

  • Device shall insulate a tube in under three minutes
  • Device shall be multipurpose and be compatible with various bends
  • Device shall be compatible with tubes of various lengths
  • Device shall reduce input from user
  • Device shall maintain a consistent and uniform appearance
  • Device shall appropriately set insulation within tolerances for end conditions
  • Device shall be compatible with tube diameters ranging from:
    • 3/8 - 1 inch
  • Device shall not permanently warp tubing
  • Device shall not destroy insulation

Design Considerations[edit]

  • Risks include:
    • Injury to operator
    • Damage to equipment
    • Failure of system
  • Necessary steps will be taken to ensure safe operation of equipment
    • Ergonomic factors will be considered in design to mitigate injury to operator
    • Emergency stop/fail-safe design will be incorporated to system to mitigate damage to equipment
    • Fatigue and stress analyses will be conducted on components to determine appropriate operating conditions and maintenance intervals

Project Learning[edit]

Initial Testing[edit]

Initial tests were conducted to determine the force required to pull insulation over the tube and around various bends. The goal of the test was to determine the range of forces involved in the current installation process to better understand how the future system should operate.

Render of complex geometry tube

The force test identified several points along a complex geometry specimen with focus on significant bends or changes in geometry. The next step consisted of attaching a force scale to the insulation and pulling it over the specimen and acquire data at each point.

As one could expect, the force required to install the insulation rapidly increases following each change in geometry, as each bend increases the contact area between the tube and insulation, thereby increasing the friction. The test was concluded at the final point when the force required to overcome friction between the tube and pipe exceeded the maximum allowable force on the force scale.

Calculated force at each point
Force to pull insulation over pipe

Preliminary Design[edit]

CAD Render Mk.I

An early design concept features a "chug-and-tug" method. In this design, the tubing is fixed while the system engages the tube via a set of rollers. The rollers drive the system along the tube, around any sort of bends and geometry, while simultaneously gripping and pulling the insulation behind it. This in turn will reduce input from the operator and ease the installation method.

Current prototype system consists of 3D printed materials. Future designs will incorporate more robust materials such as aluminum. Current analysis is underway regarding the materials for the rollers. Current concepts include utilizing an elastomeric coating material to allow for additional friction between the rollers and titanium tubing, as well as elastic distortion characteristics to properly grip tubes of various sizes while using only a single roller design.

Further developments include sizing larger motors for increased torque.

CAD Render Mk.II
Physical prototype using predominately 3D printed material

Final Design[edit]


Team Members[edit]

Team at TDCR during Fall 2018 visit. From left to right: Michael Odell, Richard Baptista, Isaac Fisher and Kaleb Halen.

Kaleb Halen
Major: Mechanical Engineering
Graduation Date: Spring 2019
Future Goals:

Isaac Fisher
Major: Mechanical Engineering
Graduation Date: Spring 2019
Future Goals:

Michael Odell
Major: Mechanical Engineering
Hometown: Gig Harbor, WA
Graduation Date: Spring 2019
Future Goals:

Richard Baptista
Major: Mechanical Engineering
Hometown: Twin Falls, ID
Graduation Date: Spring 2019
Future Goals:

Additional Documentation[edit]

Product Requirements
File:BIG-Team-Product Requirements.pdf

Project Schedule

File:BIG-Team Schedule F18.pdf

Meeting Minutes

File:BIG-Team Meeting Minutes F18.pdf


File:BIG Design Reivew.pdf

Client Interview