Cover: Airframe Technology: Customer Focus on Coatings

From aircraft owners to maintenance facilities and the military paint manufacturers are answering market needs

Listening to customers is the first step in satisfying their needs. Saving time and money are usually at the top of the list. For maintenance facilities durability of the paint and a fast dry time means aircraft owners and maintenance crews both win. Developments in aircraft coatings allow aircraft to better withstand environmental conditions, and scheduling time is more flexible with reduced drying times.

"The driving factors of paint for an aircraft manufacturer or customer perspective are longevity — the ability to ensure paint adhesion that will last five to seven years — and quality that it will cover consistently from front to back," says Tom Heck, supervisor, sales and marketing at Wichita Cessna Citation Service Center. "There are so many variables that affect paint — heat, humidity, air pressure, and type of spray equipment that it is good to remove one factor, the chemical makeup of paint."

Other observations: "There is a trend away from earthy colors," Heck says, "and toward brighter, more vibrant colors and flowing design. Logos have been scaled back and there is an emphasis on clean, sharp lines."

"Customers are asking for green processes," says J. Marc Taylor, Sherwin-Williams Aerospace director of sales. "They need paints to cure in ambient-type conditions to reduce energy requirements, dry time, and repairability — to reduce the amount of time in the paint hangar."

Paint manufacturers Sherwin-Williams and Akzo Nobel Aerospace Coatings have both developed new products that meet these customer needs.

SKYscapes, a basecoat-clearcoat exterior paint system developed by Sherwin-Williams, delivers faster processing time, more color, and easier maintenance.

SKYscapes is a modified polyester topcoat applied using an innovative basecoat-clearcoat process in which all colors are applied as a basecoat. After the basecoat dries, the entire surface of the aircraft is sprayed with a clearcoat finish. Color coat dry time is approximately two hours, compared to six to 10 hours for other systems.

"The chemistry is in the can, and designed specifically for aerospace," says Taylor, "it allows faster dry time; another color can be applied in a couple hours which allows the use of multiple colors in one shift."

The system offers a longer recoat time of up to 72 hours, which means no sanding is required between coats.

"The 72-hour recoat window allows balancing resources and manpower from a business standpoint," Taylor states. "Repairs and multitasking can be done, and time over weekends won't affect the overall painting quality."

Julie Voisin, Sherwin-Williams Aerospace marketing manager, says the new paint is "easier to repair as the clear coat has no pigments so the color match is not affected."

The color pallete has been expanded with brighter hues, brighter reds, yellows and oranges, and more vibrant, cleaner blues. And the coatings have an extended life span as a protective layer is added. The denser color has added UV protection.

Akzo Nobel
Alumigrip Basecoat and Alumigrip Clearcoat are Akzo Nobel's latest entries into the general aviation and business aviation marketplace. The basecoat/clearcoat system is designed to reduce cycle times by up to 40 percent. Coverage requires fewer layers, thereby reducing application time.

"Traditionally paints used in the GA market were very slow drying in order to allow them to flow and achieve a smooth finish and high gloss," Andrew Richardson, global market director for Akzo Nobel, says. "This was OK when users did not have to turn around aircraft in production but this has changed as users try and increase turnaround in order to reduce costs and save time.

"Due to the fact that traditional aerospace products were slower drying, some users turned to automotive type paints in order to reduce process times," he says. While these products were quicker drying they weren't designed to cope with the flying conditions.

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