A popular contemporary thought about airplanes goes round, ‘the airplane is safer 30,000 feet than on the ground.’ But the safety of the aircraft at such height does not come automatically. At 30,000, the elements that the airplane has to deal with are ferocious. Without good engineering, the aircraft stands no chance. The engineering starts from aircraft coating.
Aircraft coating is a crucial operational requirement in the aerospace industry. Traditionally, it consists of a primer and a topcoat. Primers inhibit corrosion of the aircraft structure and skin while improving the adhesiveness of subsequent topcoats. Coats are applied to boost the overall durability of the aircraft but also for other purposes. For instance, for commercial airplanes, the topcoat also improves the appearance and aesthetics of the craft. In contrast, for military planes, the topcoat is used for camouflage purposes to avoid detection by the enemy during combat.
Coating technology is improving, and new technologies are being introduced due to coating solutions providers working close with aircraft manufacturers. For example, we now have self-priming topcoats, which are coats that perform as both primers and topcoats.
Factors Influencing Coating Solutions
Creating a coating solution is a complex process. To start with, the coating has to consider variations in the substrate material, aircraft’s operational environment, and flight conditions.
The substrate material is usually made of different alloys and polymers. Each alloy and polymer has its properties. To add to the complexity of the matter, there is a pre-paint treatment given to the substrate before the coating is done. This adds to the complexity.
The operational environment can range from arctic, tropical, marine, industrial, or desert. Therefore, before a coating solution is provided, it has to factor in all the adverse conditions in the different operational environments. For example, the temperatures might vary from −54 to 177°C.
The flight conditions also vary. For instance, a military aircraft might not be flying as much as a commercial plane, but it often experiences extreme structural loads. As a result, the environmental and mechanical stresses on the coating are usually extreme.
Added Advantage to Coating
In addition to aircraft coating allowing the aircraft to operate under extreme conditions, it also improves dirt resistance and minimizes drag resistance. The better a topcoat is resistant to dirt, the better it keeps off corrosive material from being deposited and sitting on the plane, improving its durability.
Drag resistance is also an operational advantage and a structural maintenance advantage. An aircraft must curb drag as much as possible because any additional drug translates to the bottom line. Therefore the least the drag, the better the economic performance of a craft. In addition, less drag comes less resistance, reducing the impact of the elements on the aircraft.
Other Applications of Coating Solutions
Other applications in the coating space include thermal and acoustic insulation. Different films are manufactured to achieve this in various aerospace projects. These films enhance the craft in heat sealing, thread adhesion, puncture resistance, and permeance.
Apart from just the aircraft’s exterior overall coating, the interior also has to be coated for aesthetic and performance. Mostly, the interior is achieved through the industrial aerospace adhesive solution.
Industrial Adhesive Solutions
An industrial aerospace adhesives solution includes surface protection, masking tapes, and anti-foreign object damage. There are also self-adhesive decorative foils which are mostly used to brand different aircraft. In addition, window masks, specialty tapes, anti-erosion protection, and other exterior protections are included in the industrial adhesive solutions.
As different technologies are being advanced in the aircraft coating industry, the demand to be environmentally conscious is rising. As a result, frameworks like REACh (EU’s chemicals regulatory framework) are put in place to reduce the number of chemicals in the environment for the protection of human health and the environment.
The REACh framework covers the production and use of chemicals and how they could potentially have an impact. The aerospace industry is also affected by this framework. More than 1700 substances are under regulatory control due to the REACh framework. They include paints, sealants, fire protection, and other materials used in surface treatments.
Some of the notable substances that have been scrutinized include the use of chromium. Chromium is carcinogenic, and its manufacturing involves lead anodes that generate toxic lead waste. Therefore chromium is replaced by the use of Tartaric Sulphuric Acid, which is a less harmful substance. As the aerospace coating industry continues to refine its solutions, it is vital that these solutions are not at the expense of human health or the environment. Aside from that, the technological growth in this industry is growing, promising us better aircrafts.