Robotic media blasting used to strip paint from fighter plane such because the F-16 Combating Falcon has been round at Hill Air Power Base for greater than three a long time. Now, the know-how is getting used for the primary time to take away paint from the A-10 Thunderbolt II.
The 576th Plane Upkeep Squadron is upgrading its conventional guide media blast paint elimination course of by utilizing new-generation robots to strip the paint from A-10s that come to the bottom for depot overhaul and upkeep.
All plane require common exterior upkeep to guard their metallic surfaces from corrosion resulting from moisture and the tough environments wherein they frequently function.
The method is predicted to the scale back man hours it takes to strip paint from the plane, improve security by eradicating staff from the blasting environment, and lead to measureable time and prices financial savings.
“There are going to be across-the-board enhancements together with a dramatic discount in publicity to a Hexavalent Chromium mud atmosphere. That is maybe the best profit to the robotic system,” mentioned Tim Randolph, director for the 576th Plane Upkeep Squadron. “Financial savings may also be seen with lowered working time and fewer energy consumption, in addition to lowered prices in materials. We actually haven’t discovered a draw back to this technique.”
James Gill, Corrosion Management Flight Chief for the 576th AMXS, mentioned whereas the standard guide media blast course of is efficient, it’s labor intensive, requiring groups of employees at the least three full days to finish.
The brand new paint elimination course of is completed by two robots, every with 4 hose attachments that transfer independently alongside either side of the plane. As well as, the time to strip an A-10 is decreased from three days to 9-12 hours.
“In comparison with the guide paint stripping methodology, the robots use half the quantity of blast media at half of the air stress, whereas eradicating a particularly exact thickness, uniformly, throughout your complete plane floor,” Gill mentioned. “This interprets right into a course of that’s much less nerve-racking on the plane skins and saves cash in media price, whereas creating solely half the waste stream.”
Along with the robotics course of, a brand new laser burn course of is at the moment being examined and used on F-16s with confirmed success. Nevertheless, the squadron remains to be maturing the method, and hopes to use this course of to the A-10s sooner or later.
By utilizing new robotic know-how, the squadron is increasing its capability by including functionality.
Randolph mentioned every of three processes have totally different capabilities and inherent limitations, however mixed collectively, can scale back the overall time an plane spends in depot upkeep and helps return it to the warfighter quicker.