The aircraft inspection or service routinely involves the process of paint removal, inspection and repainting. Coating removal operations are tedious and usually involve chemical and mechanical processes that result in significant emissions of volatile organic compounds, organic and inorganic hazardous air pollutants, and hazardous waste.
Laser Coating removal is paint stripping solution for all types of commercial and military aircraft & helicopters. LCR is by far the most superior solution among the current and future (planned) methods for ‘stripping/de-painting’ of commercial and military aircraft / helicopters.
According the cost assessment from Department of Defense ( DoD), such a Robotic Laser Coating Removal System (RLCRS) implementation results in a labor savings of approximately $7.4 million, an annual materials cost savings of approximately $113,600, and a waste management cost avoidance of approximately $60,000. The total annual operating cost savings equals approximately $7.5 million. A life-cycle cost analysis demonstrated that implementation and use of the RLCRS for coating removal of the targeted KC-135 parts would result in 15-year life-cycle cost savings greater than $111 million. These cost savings translate into a payback period of approximately 0.3 years.
Other Air Force depots and DoD facilities that perform chemical depainting of large off-aircraft parts will also realize similar cost savings. For example, if similar cost savings were assumed at all three of the major Air Force depots that perform chemical depainting operations on aircraft parts, the combined cost estimates would result in labor savings of approximately $66.6 million, an annual materials cost savings of approximately $1 million, and an annual waste management cost avoidance of approximately $540,000. The total annual operating cost avoidance would result in approximately $67 million per year for the U.S. Air Force.
A Dutch STRATAGEM Group (www.stratagemgroup.nl) has also developed the similar technology for the coating removal application.
The LCR laser uses a scalable 12-35 kW CO2 laser that can handle all paint colors. The laser evaporates and combusts the paint, while this paint effluent is immediately vacuumed from the surface and passed through the filtration system. The system has a built-in, closed-loop, color recognition and control system allowing it to strip both metal and composite surfaces in a very accurate way and make “selective stripping” possible. The laser is mounted on a 10 DOF robotic arm and mobile platform and is controlled by specifically designed software loaded in the LCR computer that has the capability to perform a geometric-robot path analysis of the aircraft. This allows the LCR to follow the three-dimensional contour of the aircraft in an optimal trajectory. For safety, a forward scanner is mounted on the robot end-effector to check the aircraft geometry in real-time. The system will be available in 4 sizes, the smallest for small aircraft such as fighter jets and helicopters, the largest for the A380. The system is fully autonomous and will be controlled by a single operator from behind a glass window separated supervisory room. The CO2 laser can remove the paint from the aircraft without damaging the metal or composite surface and will be fully compliant to the SAE MA4872A standard for thermal stripping as early tests in 2012 already showed. Furthermore, the LCR robot will comply with all safety requirements for labor and aircraft.
Source : DOD; http://www.nrec.ri.cmu.edu/projects/ctc/; http://www.mowarped.com/lcr/the-products/