FLAGSTAFF, Ariz.--Investigators from the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board
(NTSB) arrived in Tucson, Ariz., Tuesday (Jan. 22) as the focus of
electronics problems that have grounded Boeing's 787 Dreamliner
shifted to battery-charging electronics.
The NTSB team is visiting Securaplane
Technologies, an avionics unit of U.K.-based Meggitt, to
test the company's battery-charging devices as well as wire bundles
and battery-management circuit boards. Japanese and U.S. airlines
grounded their 787s on Jan. 16 while investigators in both nations
looked into battery and other problems that have plagued the
airliner in recent weeks.
The Dreamliner, a huge business and
technology bet for Boeing, leverages advanced electronics, millions
of lines of software code and lithium ion battery technology to
claim 20 percent better fuel efficiency than the Boeing 767 it's
intended to replace.
Dreamliner probe focused on the LiOn battery, which
powered the plane's auxiliary power unit (APU), after one (pictured nearby) caught
fire Jan. 7 in an empty plane in Boston. The incident has similarities to an incident involving the Chevrolet Volt--a Volt LiOn
battery in a crash-test vehicle caught fire in a parking
lot weeks after its test.
Investigators said they examined the 32V battery using X-ray and CT
scans, disassembled the APU battery into its eight cells for
detailed examination and documentation. Three of the cells were
selected for more detailed radiographic examination to view the
interior of the cells prior to their disassembly, the NTSB said in a
statement. The agency added that an examination of the
flight recorder data from the JAL B-787 airplane indicate that the
APU battery did not exceed its designed voltage of 32 volts.
Securaplane, acquired by Meggitt in 2011, has been in business since
1986 and offers a variety of avionics including aircraft
security systems, LiOn batteries and chargers and inverters--the
last leveraging Vienna rectifiers, power MOSFETs/IGBTs, planar
transformers, ultracapacitors, and advanced pulse width modulation
techniques, according to the company's web site.
The charger in question, the Boeing
787 BCU (schematic pictured above), uses advanced DC to DC conversion technology,
patented charging algorithms, comprehensive diagnostics and fault
isolation to charge the APU battery, according to company
Measuring 14.7 x 5.0 x 7.7 inches and weighing 11 pounds, the
rack-mounted system features 23VDC minimum and 80 Amps maximum input
power and 1500W max output power.
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