“The benefit of using VirtualPaint in training is that we are able to show immediate results that you wouldn’t see in the spray booth. Factors like transfer efficiency and film thickness can be viewed and analyzed immediately without waiting for coatings to cure,” says Jeremiah Treloar, STAR4D instructor.
The VirtualPaint was developed by the IWRC, as was another technology called the LaserPaint. LaserPaint is a small spray gun attachment which helps technicians determine their gun-to-part distance, maintain control, and consistently apply the appropriate spray pattern overlap.
Once technicians have gone through classroom and virtual training, they take what they have learned and practice spraying actual coatings in the booth to work on technique. Here, technicians are not only able to use actual coatings and parts, but they also are able to learn the proper setup of equipment.
Simply comparing pre- and post-test data, STAR4D instructors have seen countless instances of improvements by students over the years. “Every painter who comes through our training tells us they learned something whether it be from the spray technique training to VirtualPaint practice. What really matters, though, is taking what they learned and applying it to their day-to-day jobs. That is where the improvements will happen,” says Rick Klein, STAR4D program manager at the IWRC.
Three requirements to passing the STAR4D certification are: first, technicians must pass a written evaluation with at least an 80 percent score. Then a passing score of 75 percent on VirtualPaint training lessons is required, and finally the ability to apply primer and topcoat to manufacturer recommended specifications. The certification lasts for one year before recertification is required.
Aside from improving a facility’s product line, painter training can also have a great impact on the environmental implications of the coating process, with the biggest being the reduction of air emissions generated by reducing the amount of overspray from spray painting operations.
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) are very hazardous to the technician’s health and the environment. Being able to reduce these emissions not only means a more environmentally friendly process, but could help facilities with regulatory requirements and permits.
Improving the overall process and reducing the amount of material used also has other effects on the environment. Fewer spray booth filters end up in the landfill and fewer wasted coatings need to be disposed of reducing the cost of hazardous waste disposal. Increasing the spray painter’s efficiency to be less wasteful and more environmentally friendly not only benefits the technicians and environment, but can also save money for the company.
Branching out from military
STAR4D has worked with Air Force facilities like the 185th Air Refueling Wing in Sioux City, IA; Pensacola Air Force Base in Florida; Air National Guard facilities like the 1109th AVCRAD in Connecticut; the 181st Fighter Wing in Indiana; and more than 25 Coast Guard Air Stations. The Inter-American Air Forces Academy at Lackland Air Force Base and Robins Air Force Base have even become two of the nine total STAR4D satellite sites located across the country. The satellite sites have certified instructors on-site in order to conduct STAR4D certifications without having their employees travel to the Iowa facility for certification or recertification.
The STAR4D satellite site located at Inter-American Air Forces Academy (IAAFA) at Lackland Air Force Base has reported significant progress through coating consumption decreases by 50 percent, cutting hazardous waste by 75 percent, and lowering VOC emissions by 80 percent.
STAR4D has also certified spray technicians from numerous companies in the aerospace industry. With the development of the Aerospace Coatings Technician Certification, STAR4D hopes to be able to branch out and expand the training reach. “A number of maintenance repair operations have expressed interest in becoming STAR4D satellite sites,” says Klein.