Johnstown, Penn. – Concurrent Technologies Corp. (CTC) is designing an environmentally friendly system to remove coatings from US Air Force aircraft. Complete depainting of aircraft is performed as part of the normal maintenance process. Presently, existing paint is removed with abrasive dry media or chemical paint removers. Conventional chemical paint removal processes utilize chemicals containing volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and hazardous air pollutants (HAPs). Both processes result in large amounts of solid waste, hazardous waste, and air emissions.
To reduce the environmental impact of conventional depainting operations and to increase aircraft availability, the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) issued a task order to CTC to design, demonstrate, and validate a robotic laser coating removal system capable of removing coatings from the aircraft. This project is the first funded task under a five-year Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contract that was awarded to CTC by AFRL. After successfully demonstrating this new technology on a deactivated aircraft, the robotic system will be transitioned to Ogden Air Logistics Center (OO-ALC) for production usage. The robotics for this project are scalable for use on aircraft from fighter size to the larger cargo and tanker aircraft.
The system that is being engineered will consist of a commercially available laser source, scanner, and particle capture system that will be mounted to and integrated with a mobile robotic base and surface monitoring sensors. Activities in progress include performance testing at CTC on the laser source and a design of an autonomous robot base by Carnegie Mellon University Robotics Institute National Robotics Engineering Center (NREC).
The benefits of this new system include the reduction of plastic media, paint stripping chemicals, hazardous waste, air emissions, spent personal protective equipment, masking materials, and maintenance costs that are associated with aircraft depainting.
This application will be the subject of a feature article scheduled to appear in the September/October issue of Industrial Laser Solutions.