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Weight paint

Keith Mwanalushi looks at some breakthrough developments from PPG Aerospace

Reducing weight by using new paint and coating technologies is vital for airlines as they seek to increase visibility without paying the price at the fuel pump.


Visibility is everything, especially in an industry where the visual aspect is key to differentiating a product or brand. Getting the airline livery right is key to communicating that brand and this involves several processes, of which the paint job is one.


Aside from the visual elements, there is the safety aspect, especially as winter sets in. Visitors to the Farnborough airshow this year got a first look at an innovative non-stick aircraft coating developed by aviation paint specialists at PPG Aerospace. The unique coating, still in development, helps eliminate ice build-up for increased fuel efficiency, enhanced safety and lower maintenance.


By helping ice, insects and other substances to safely slide off the aircraft’s wings and control surfaces, PPG’s coating prevents build-up that can create drag. This in turn helps maintain a smooth airflow over the wings, which NASA studies have shown can reduce fuel consumption by as much as 6%.


Mark Cancilla, Global Director at PPG says the company works closely with its customers to bring them technologies and new coatings they need. “We’d been hearing for a number of years from our customers that icing delays were having a negative impact on their cost efficiency and therefore, our aerospace research and technology team set itself the target of developing a coating which reduces ice build-up on an aircraft.”


The non-stick coating is the result of that investment and Cancilla feels it’s a significant step towards reducing the time and energy required for de-icing. “While the coating is in testing phase, our first trials have already produced positive results in reducing ice build-up and increasing an aircraft’s environmental efficiency. An airplane using PPG’s ice-deterrent coating requires a quarter of the energy a standard finish requires to remove ice from the exterior of the aircraft,” he says.


Additionally, because the coating minimises bug residue, less post-flight cleaning is needed, which shortens turnaround intervals – particularly crucial for low cost carriers.


PPG holds four patents related to the technology and is currently collaborating with key commercial airframe and engine manufacturers to test the coating’s efficiency and durability. The product may be launched commercially as soon as 2017.


Of course, a primary factor in the selection of a paint or coating system is cost. However, as the efficiency of the application process is a key factor of the overall cost of repainting, airlines do consider the ease with which the coatings are applied.


This would include drying times for each layer, the appearance of each layer and the total system, and ease of correction of any flaws that arise during the application process itself. Finally, the airlines consider the overall film thickness, which influences the total weight of paint applied and the expected service life of the system.  >>

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