(Certified Best Practice by BMPCOE)
McDonnell Douglas Aerospace - St. Louis, MO
MDA (St. Louis) recently obtained a patent for an automated robotic technology identified as the FLASHJETTM Coating Removal process. This FLASHJETTM process uses a powerful pulse (15-23J/sqcm) of high intensity light to destroy the molecular structure of surface coatings. Simultaneously, a low pressure stream of dry ice particles cools the surface and sweeps away the ablated coating residue. This process allows removal of any coating from any surface with extraordinary precision, leaving no damage to substrates, no media intrusion, no corrosion potential, and an absolute minimum waste stream.
The system contains a color sensor subsystem which controls lamp power during stripping to prevent substrate damage. This allows the system to strip multiple layers of paint from the substrate while leaving the primer intact, ready to be repainted immediately. Additionally, FLASHJETTM was designed to address environmental impacts and worker safety/health issues. It filters hazardous solids from the waste stream, releasing an exhaust with only 10 ppm light hydrocarbons. Any removed waste is captured in disposable filter bags so operators are not exposed to dangerous by-products.
Other benefits include worker acceptance, improved productivity, reduction of hazardous waste, environmental compliance, and reduced operating costs. For example, the cost of paint removal with the FLASHJETTM is approximately $3.74 per square foot, depending on geographic location. With chemicals the cost is $33.61 per square foot and with plastic media blast it is $15.40 per square foot.
MDA (St. Louis) has the first production model of this machine and is currently going through a series of mechanical validation tests for many different material types and manufacturing processes. There is no limit to the number of times the FLASHJETTM process can be applied to aircraft surfaces. The system has been fully qualified by the FAA for paint stripping applications on all of McDonnell Douglas aircraft structures and all Air Force F-15E program parts. MDA (St. Louis) is working on approval of this process for Airbus Industries, Boeing Aircraft, and Navy and Army products.
Future plans include the design and manufacture of a second generation FLASHJETTM System for marketing by MDA (St. Louis). There is significant interest in this product from both U.S. repair facilities and foreign governments.