Airbus says the weight of external paint (topcoat plus primer) can add 1,170 lb. (530 kg) to its A380. If one considers all the requirements, certifications, tool options and materials for painting and coating aircraft, one ends up with a substantial amount of work and processes that, not unlike layers of paint, add up. Take a look inside the layers of this industry and what is required for a great paint job for your aircraft.
1. Endless Color Options
Specifications: Glair G30 Series, created by 3Chem, is a single-stage high-solid polyurethane topcoat system that uses Alodine 1200S and P-1019 high-solid epoxy primer. Averaging $535 for a 4-gal. kit, depending on color, 3Chem can custom match or develop endless solid colors or offer up to 400 metallic options. The system was tested to AMS 3095 specification by Aviation Testing Services in Wichita and offers a dry time of 4 hr., or 1 hr. with the use of the PS40 additive, $49 a quart. The average gloss measures 93 gloss units (GU) at 60F. Copa Airlines has used Glair G30 to paint an Embraer 190 now in flight testing.
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2. Curing Technology
Specifications: AeroWing infrared emitters use wide-spectrum infrared emissions and work at lower temperatures, making it safer for operators and other materials around the curing area. The technology fully penetrates through the material surface, unlike heat lamps and hot-air curing methods that create trapped bubbles, and it cures up to 40 times faster than ambient light.
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3. It’s All in the Decals
Company: Color Craft
Specifications: Color Craft creates, designs and manufactures decals, graphics and labeling products for many industries, including aerospace. Color Craft’s president, Doug Stewart, says there has been increasing demand from Boeing and from carriers for projects with a marketing focus. Early engagement like that “is pushing the envelope of what is possible in terms of exterior graphics,” says Stewart. Color Craft completed Boeing’s largest decal installation in 2015, for Cargolux. The Boeing 747-8 freighter was lined with 460 individual decals for Cargolux’s 45th anniversary of operations.
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4. Ditching Pre-Treatment and Primer
Specifications: AkzoNobel manufactures, develops and supplies coatings for commercial airline, general aviation and air defense markets. Its Base Coat/Clear Coat system has been developed with a focus on reducing drying times and bringing operational efficiency during the painting process. This time reduction can shorten paint cycle time by up to 30%. AkzoNobel also qualified for the Aerospace Material Specification AMS 3095A Direct to Metal Base Coat/Clear Coat system, which eliminates the need for any metal pre-treatment or primer.
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Photo credit: Photography by Jean Frank
5. Weight Reduction Means Savings
Specifications: PPG Aerospace introduced Aerocron electrocoat primer this year. The primer, SAE AMS3144-qualified, is a water-based, chrome-free primer system for aircraft that reduces waste of excess paint. Aerocron says it has transfer efficiency of 95%; typical transfer efficiencies hover around 30-70%. The electrocoat process provides a uniform film thickness across the entire aircraft, evens holes and increases weight savings by up to 75%. For example, a narrowbody aircraft can realize a 300-650-lb. reduction in weight.
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6. Kits at Lower Cost
Company: Sherwin Williams
Specifications: During MRO Americas in April, Sherwin Williams announced a new product: JCX Polyester Urethane. The coating, designed for commercial aircraft, features faster drying times and comes in a 2:1:1 pre-packed kit. It meets AMS-3095 performance requirements, provides chemical resistance to Skydrol and other hydraulic fluids, is lead-free and contains less than 3.5 lb./gal. VOC (volatile organic compounds). Sherwin Williams has been working with Dean Baldwin and Leading Edge on the testing process. Prices have not been disclosed, but Julie Voisin, global product manager for aerospace coatings, says Sherwin Williams is looking to beat itself, not just competitors, in terms of cost.
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7. Way To Remove
Company: Clemco Industries
Specifications: Aerolyte equipment and facilities, made by Clemco Industries, are used to remove aircraft coatings non-aggressively, including specialized paint, plastics and adhesives. The technology relies on plastic, starch, baking soda or even walnut shells to remove coatings safely, avoiding toxic substances. Aerolyte equipment and systems include production pressure cabinets, engineered dry-strip rooms and dust collectors.
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8. The Paint Job in a Different Light
Company: Lufthansa Technik (LHT)
Specifications: Logo lights illuminate the airline’s logo and make the airplane more visible. Lufthansa Technik AG developed a logo light protector that helps prevent GFRP (glass-fiber reinforced plastic) surface layer damage that can occur during removal of the sealant and minimize erosion, located in the horizontal stabilizer of the Boeing 777. The protector is a metal ring installed in and around the logo light cut-out, sitting between the cover of the light and protector without contacting the stabilizer. Already part of Lufthansa Cargo’s 777 fleet maintenance, LHT’s Original Equipment Innovation Division now offers the product to all 777 operators.
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Gallery Take a look at the details and processes that go into maintaining and renewing an aircraft’s exterior: AviationWeek.com/StraightUpPaint