Original Date: 10/20/1997
Revision Date: 01/18/2007
Information : Enhanced Performance Application Process of Paintings and Coatings
Northrop Grumman is currently implementing a series of coating application process and facility changes to improve the performance of its New Technology (NT) coatings. This initiative ties into a larger, facility-wide Lean Manufacturing Initiative, and was motivated by the LRIP stage for the F/A-18 E/F program.
Currently, the F/A-18 C/D program uses production techniques such as conventional manual spray methods, pin gauge thickness measurements, and temperature and humidity recordings versus time by inkjet plotters. Thickness measurements are handwritten and stored, but no SPC data exists. Correlations between the part performance and the application process cannot occur because temperature and humidity conditions recorded during the application process are not maintained for later reference.
In the F/A-18 E/F program, the required coating area has increased 4.5 times compared to the existing C/D program. Although coordination with the prime contractor has reduced that area, Northrop Grumman must still coat an area that is 2.7 times larger than that found in the C/D program. In addition, each coating area in the E/F program typically requires the application of five layers of material to the substrate areas verses three layers applied in the C/D program. In addition, the cure cycle times alone of these new additional coatings make the fabrication process cycle time 3.5 to 4.0 times longer. To accommodate the E/F program, Northrop Grumman is developing new production techniques to address these main factors that affect production schedules.
The main goals of Northrop Grumman’s Enhanced Performance Application Process are to meet production schedules, reduce cost via shortened cycle times, and improve the understanding of the application process so that, ultimately, part performance and quality are improved. The initiatives currently underway include:
Fabricating facilities with computer-controlled and monitored environmental conditions including temperature, relative humidity, and positive pressure. Improving employee knowledge of coating integrity through a Coating Layer Control Initiative. Magnetic induction and pin gauges will be used to measure the coating thicknesses. Deviation detected between the thickness measurements will indicate a density problem.
Constructing new computer-based reporting of the thickness measurements for better SPC.
Changing materials where possible to improve performance which includes replacing arc sprayed materials with conductive paint applications and using B-Stage Processed materials to achieve tight tolerances.
Improving the process through ongoing trade studies.
These initiatives will decrease fabrication cycle times to meet production schedules and, concurrently, reduce costs. Additional benefits include an improved understanding of the correlations between the part performance and the application process; waste reduction; and a decrease in aircraft weight. Ultimately, a better comprehension of the process will lead to higher performances for NT coatings.
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