Original Date: 01/26/1998
Revision Date: 01/18/2003
Best Practice : Plastic Media Blasting Process
Corpus Christi Army Depot’s (CCAD’s) main mission is to overhaul, repair, and modernize military (Army, Navy, and Air Force) helicopters. Since May 1983, the Depot has successfully used plastic media blasting (PMB) for helicopter airframe paint removal. Prior to PMB, aluminum airframes were chemically stripped and hand sanded. This process was labor intensive, requiring many safety precautions; messy; slow on removing epoxy paint; and expensive because of the control and disposal of the waste products.
CCAD is equipped with a large facility for blasting a complete helicopter, and smaller blasting cabinets for blasting the smaller size materials and components. Operators who use PMB have knowledge about media requirements and performance, equipment maintenance requirements, and the material being blasted (e.g., metal type and thickness). Operators are trained and annually certified for PMB. At CCAD, only Type III and Type V media are allowed to be used. PMB process parameters include media flow, nozzle pressure, angle of attack, cleanliness of surfaces to be blasted, media type (e.g., hardness, material type, etc.), and material surface map.
CCAD learned that PMB works; optimization and long-term planning among PMB, chemical stripping, wheat starch media blasting, baking soda blasting, and high pressure water jet stripping will be needed; more study on ergonomics (e.g., holding device, platform, lighting, visibility, room to move) is still needed; vendor should certify material quality; a Quick Test for Quality of Media (Mil-P-85891) will not be able to clearly identify poor performing media; performance testing is time consuming; and acceptance of the process took time.
Benefits of PMB include man-hour savings due to high efficiency compared with manual sanding; improved work safety; reduced facility maintenance; and reuse of media and reduced waste disposal costs by eliminating hazardous chemicals.
For more information see the
Point of Contact for this survey.