Site: Fuji Heavy Industries
Aerospace Energy Division
1-1-11, Yonan, Utsunomiya
Tochigi 320, Japan
Date Visited: December 10, 1992
Report Author: B. Kramer
Mr. Masaomi Kadoya
Mr. Takeshi Nakao
Mr. Takashi Nagumo
Mr. Kenichiro Usuki
Mr. Toshio Sakakibara
Fuji Heavy Industries started in 1917 with the establishment of the Aircraft Research Laboratory, later Nakajima Aircraft Company. The company was broken up after World War II; five elements rejoined in 1953 as FHI. FHI has four manufacturing plants in the Tokyo area, in addition to an R&D Center and the home office. Six percent of company sales are in aerospace ($453 million), and 20% of employees (3,000) are employed in aerospace.
In-house support is mainly provided for graphite/epoxy wing and fuselage structure fabrication, repair methods, and titanium-composite joint development in FHI's recent composite activity. From 1981 to 1988, MITI supported basic technology for future technologies of fiber-reinforced polymers, fiber-reinforced metals, and fabrication and design techniques for composites.
The facility is highly production-oriented.
FHI does not do CATIA simulations for the tape layer, but does simulations using its unique TLVRFY (tape layer verify) system. The facility is highly production-oriented, with the most actual production of any site visited. FHI is a Boeing subcontractor, and is required to use Boeing technology in many parts. They have learned a lot from Boeing but they now feel they could get better quality and the same technology themselves. Workers at FHI typically lay up parts according to operation sheets but they also do some memorization. Primary structures are made to layup according to operation sheets as well. They use throw-away nylon bags for autoclaving, because it reduces the expense. A laser-cut Kevlar component was shown, but water jet cutting is currently widely used since water jet cutting is considered superior.
FHI rates its composites processing as excellent compared to other Japanese industries. They do not know much about U.S. companies; only a few FHI employees have seen the production line at Boeing. They rate co-curing and honeycomb structures as their best low-cost manufacturing technologies (they include honeycomb only if they can do both the design and production).
They think that composite use in aerospace will expand, since more electronics are going into airplanes, requiring more weight savings. They feel that better design is needed; no more "black aluminum," and feel that Airbus Industries, a European company, seems to be ahead of the U.S. and Japanese companies in automated manufacturing techniques.
FHI's integral wing structure is the most complex part in the world. It took five years to develop and will be co-produced with MHI (and General Dynamics). Development was done jointly, but production will be completely separate. The most difficult aspect was developing the required bladder bag technology. Four aspects were mentioned as having potential for breakthroughs in cost reduction:
The 777 co-cure horizontal stabilizer was jointly developed by FHI and Boeing. This co-cure technology is currently applied in Boeing's 777 program.
FHI indicated that scrap and bag failures are very rare. The bag material is from the U.S. and is commercial grade (the best of three available commercial grades). Our hosts stated that stitched RTM is not a good idea for cost reduction and that thermoplastic composites may reduce cost, since material cost may decrease and manufacturing methods (especially in pultrusion) have tremendous room for improvement. They observed that in the past everyone in the U.S. was excited about thermoplastics; now everyone in the U.S. is giving up on thermoplastic composites. They think there is potential, because there is no cure time. Therefore, if good processing methods can be developed and material cost is reduced, manufacturing cost can be low.
They rate, in order of importance in composites manufacturing: (1) people, (2) equipment, and (3) facilities. They are thinking about automated kitting, but only as an idea thus far.
FHI would be interested in cooperative efforts with the U.S., if they prove to be mutually beneficial.
Fuji Heavy Industries Aerospace Division. 1991. "Advanced
Technology in FHI" (pamphlet). Japan.
Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. 1992. "Aerospace FHI" (pamphlet). Japan.
Fuji Heavy Industries. 1992. Annual Report, 1992.