Taking Flight

By Jenn Hess | August 9, 2005

Aerospace coatings manufacturers fly high with environmentally-friendly products and new facilities.

* The aerospace industry continues to experience ups and downs, just as most market segments are during this challenging economic period. While Boeing and Airbus have reported increases in aircraft deliveries, major airlines have recently reported declining mid-year revenues due to cutbacks in corporate travel. How well aircraft manufacturers are doing directly impacts the coatings industry. While manufacturers have noticed a slowdown in some segments such as smaller aircraft and single engine planes, refurbishment and replacement of older planes and the construction of larger aircraft will positively impact coatings demand.

Jim Rowbothham, commercial director, Akzo Nobel Aerospace Coatings, said, "Demand for coatings is currently in an upward cycle, corresponding to the increasing orderbooks of the main airframe manufacturers for airlines that are upgrading their fleets with more economical new generation aircraft. The airline sector is competitive with new global alliances and brand enhancements causing airlines to keep up with painting. This cycle will decline again in the next five years as new equipment with 30-year service life is widely adopted in the market," said Mr. Rowbotham.

"In the Canadian market, the influence of Bombardier is very strong," said Daniel St. Cyr, director, aerospace sector, Sico. "Delivery schedules for the 50-seat regional jet are being shortened and the program for the 70-seat regional jet is picking up momentum. The 90-seater will be starting soon. This means more parts and more aircraft to be painted. Demand is strong from Bombardier and all their subcontractors."

With increased demand comes a greater need for customization and special services. "There is an extremely high level of service associated with this market," said Dallas Finch, technical director, Sherwin-Williams Aerospace. "Our customers are always looking for ways to do the job faster and achieve a quality finish. Our customers are looking to get back to faster, more production-oriented systems that require less application time and that cures faster."

"Aircraft manufacturers are also seeking more flexibility in our manufacturing process," said John H. Randolph, president, Randolph Products. "Many are requesting custom or specialty colors which are difficult for a large scale coatings manufacturer to produce. For good customers, however, we make the effort to supply these small batches of specialty colors."

On the equipment side, building larger aircraft seem to be one trend. Airbus' latest Global Market Forecast predicts that by 2019, more than 1,200 airplanes will have 400 seats or more. Factory-built freighters are also growing. Airbus reports that 45% of its 700 new factory-built freighters with have capacities exceeding 80 tons. If these figures are any indication, aerospace coatings demand will continue to ascent to new heights.

"The move towards larger aircraft is captured by the A380 program," said Mr. Rowbotham of Akzo Nobel. "This aircraft has a large area of non-metallic surface, so suitable materials are needed for a wide variety of substrates. This will have a reduced chromate content and yet still offer high levels of corrosion resistance." All of Akzo Nobel's R&D programs now carry reduced density as a key requirement as it strives to reduce the weight of the coatings on the aircraft, according to the company.

Mergers have also been happening fast and furiously in the commercial airline market as global players acquire regional airlines. Although these events may not significantly impact the coatings industry, this can spur demand as the exteriors of the airplanes are redesigned.

"Airline mergers where one or both parties change their livery have an immediate short-term positive effect on the coatings industry," said Mr. Rowbotham. "They can be demanding programs, as the new enterprise has to stake its claim in the market with a high level of appearance. We have worked with many design agencies on new livery implementations recently, such as BMI British Midland's high profile relaunch. These programs are very important and we invest a high level of resource in them."

Environmental Issues
Concerns about VOC levels and environmentally-friendly materials are also affecting the aerospace coatings market. Manufacturers are reporting greater customer interest in high solids and water-based coatings.

Mr. St. Cyr of Sico cited an increased use of water-based primers for aircraft interiors and a switch to water-based primers for exterior applications.

"In Canada, the Department of National Defense has now implemented its new high solids coatings system specification for its aircraft fleet," said Mr. St. Cyr. "There was a two-year transition period which allowed companies to switch from low solids coatings to high solids. We are seeing a more aggressive approach by large air force bases who are realizing that the new generation of high solids coatings are user friendly and easy to work with." According to Mr. St. Cyr, one air force base has refinished seven F-18 aircraft in the past six months with Sico's coatings and now prefer them to the low solids product they had been using.

"Toxicity and environmental awareness in our industry and others has been growing for decades," said Mr. Rowbotham of Akzo Nobel. "The initiative to eliminate materials that could be harmful (lead and cadmium pigments, chromates and solvent emissions) from formulations has forced high levels of research before development can even begin. The advancement of aircraft technology has, of course, had influence as well�from substrates of aluminum and composites that require unique protection and decoration to new fluids and fuels that these substrates must be protected against."

One area Sherwin-Williams continues to focus on is the development of chrome-free primers. "There doesn't seem to be one single inhibitor pigment that can replace chrome," said Mr. Finch. "We are looking at combinations of various materials to replace chrome."

Randolph Coatings has addressed their customer needs with Mil-P 85528, a two-component water-reducible epoxy primer. "This is an excellent primer that many of our customers are converting to," said Mr. Randolph. "They typically topcoat this with the Mil-PRF-85285C, a two-component high solids polyurethane."

Mr. St. Cyr said Sico's product development efforts are also targeted towards environmentally compliant coatings. "We are working on a zero-VOC water-based primer for aircraft interiors that we expect to complete later this year," he said. "We also plan to introduce a high solids integral fuel tank coating later his year."

Facility News
As demand continue to rise, coatings manufacturers want to ensure they can capitalize on customer growth and new technologies. One way to accomplish this is to build new facilities that will meet future demand.

To strengthen its aerospace division, Sherwin-Williams built a new facility in Andover, KS that centralizes the company's aerospace coatings operations. "Everything, with the exception of manufacturing, now operates out of this facility; prior to the move we'd been more fragmented," said Mr. Finch. "It is the only aerospace facility we are aware of that combines marketing, product development, customer service, color blending and distribution. It's more efficient to have everyone in one location."

One clear advantage of this new site is S-W's new training area, which includes a spray-booth. "There has been a hunger in this industry for training. We've never been able to perform this type of training before because we didn't have the capabilities to do hands-on training; it had just been classroom training," said Mr. Finch. "Now our training courses are more well-received because we can offer both aspects. We can show an applicator some of the challenges they might face in their shop, and how to address them. It makes for a more effective training situation. We're continuing to improve and address issues of concern to our customers."

Akzo Nobel broke ground earlier this year on an Aerospace Color Center in Sassenheim, The Netherlands. The 9,800-sq.ft. facility will utilize the latest automatic dispensing and color computer technology, including a humidity- and temperature-controlled laboratory and fully climatized spray booths, drying and color testing areas, according to the company. Also under construction in Sassenheim is a new customer facility that will offer training for customers' employees involved in the coatings application process.

PRC-DeSoto Meets Military,
Airbus Qualifications

Twenty-two coatings and sealants manufactured by PRC-DeSoto International have been newly qualified or are in the final qualification stage to meet specifications of the Eurofighter Typhoon combat aircraft. PRC reported that the materials set new standards for in-flight performance and serviceability by incorporating significant advances in coatings and sealant technology.

"The four partners in the Eurofighter consortium jointly developed demanding new material specifications for sealants and coatings, taking into account the cured performance, application characteristics and environmental concerns," said Roald Johannsen, PRC-DeSoto's European aerospace marketing director. "PRC-DeSoto has developed a full range of products that include conventional and high-solids, low VOC primer and topcoat technologies which offer special reflectance and stealth characteristics; high-temperature sealants and ancillary products such as chromate-free jointing compounds and abrasion-resistant coatings. Our high solids coatings afford the needed performance with low VOC emissions during application and achieve coverage with less material used."

PRC also manufactured the first high solids exterior aircraft coatings system to be qualified by Airbus Industrie. Comprised of Desoprime CA7002 epoxy primer and Desothane CA800 polyurethane topcoat, the system was selected because of its environmental benefits and enhanced material efficiency, according to PRC.

"Compared with conventional formulas, Desothane HS topcoat and Desoprime primer have a higher percentage of solids for less material usage to achieve the needed coverage," said Mr. Johannsen. "Desothane HS topcoat is the only high-solids, low VOC topcoat approved by both Boeing Commercial Airplanes Group and Airbus."

Product Development

An attendee practices his application technique during hands-on training at S-W's new facility.

New discoveries pertaining to both product development and application technologies indicate that aerospace coatings manufacturers have a bright future, and will be kept busy as they strive to meet market demand.

Randolph Products recently expanded its product offerings with several high solids military formulations. The gloss enamel specification TT E-489G has been revised from a regular solids to the high solids TT-E-489J specification. "The silicone alkyd formula TT-E-490E is being worked on now under a government formula development contract," said Ms. Randolph. "There will be six versions of this enamel. The important formulation work we are doing is directed toward high solids and fast dry while keeping the performance of the silicone alkyd."

Also new from Randolph is MIL-PRF-85285C high solids polyurethane coating. According to the company, this is the best formulation for aircraft because it "retains gloss and color in the demanding outside exposure that an aircraft is exposed to. The MIL-PRF-85285 has excellent surface hardness, yet is also flexible."

Introduced at the recent Paris Air Show was PRC-DeSoto's new low VOC high-solids topcoat for military aircraft and land-based defense vehicles. According to the company, Desothane CA83000 is chemical-agent resistant and has low reflectivity to infrared and solar energy for reduced visibility. It can be applied over Desoprime AQ water-based primers.

"The coating meets the extremely demanding performance requirements for military aircraft and land-based defense vehicles," said Roald Johannsen, PRC's European aerospace market director. "Additionally, compared with conventional coatings, it has higher solids so less material can be used to achieve the needed coverage, and a lower percentage of solvent for reduced VOC emissions when being applied.

The Jet Glo Complete Care aftercare product line is Sherwin-Williams' newest introduction to the aerospace industry. The line was developed with Jet Glo and Acry Glo aerospace coatings. Products included in the line are bug remover, wet wash, dry wash, polish and clean plane kit.

"The Jet Glo Complete Care line is the next logical step for The Sherwin-Williams Company in offering our customers one-stop shopping for our aerospace coatings and related supplies," said George McCarthy, director of the aerospace coatings business unit. "For our Jet Glo and Acry Glo customers, this new product will go a long way in expanding the life and durable beauty of the painted aircraft."

Sherwin-Williams also offered Coatings World a sneak peak at what's to come in 2002. "We're working on a new topcoat for the commercial market that we hope to commercialize in January," said Mr. Finch. "We've been doing extensive field trials for the past eight to nine months, and are very excited about the results. This is a very exciting time in the aerospace industry with changes occuring in product and application technologies."

Taking Flight: NASA To Test Coatings in Space

Rachel Kamenetzky, sitting, and Miria Finckenor, researchers at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, examine coatings samples destined for space aboard the International Spac

If you really want to see how your coatings perform, call NASA. A project managed by NASA's Langley Center is sending coatings into space to see how they fare when exposed to conditions more extreme than those on Earth.

Along with other types of materials, selected coatings will be flown 220 miles above Earth for a year. Before the NASA project took flight, scientists tested the coatings and will compare the results with tests peformed when the samples come back to Earth.

Scientists will be testing resistance to UV exposure, the effects of thermal cycling and vacuuming, thermal optical properties, adhesion and the life span of the materials.

"This project is designed to expose different materials to the space environment and see how they survive space," said Rachel Kamenetzky, senior scientist at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, AL. "The coatings will receive a lot of exposure to UV radiation; we will look at how well the coatings perform and possibly use these results to improve ground-coatings."

Ms. Kamenetzky said more attention will be paid to the thermal optical properties. "We might be able to find coatings that maintain their thermal properties and will not yellow," she said. "Coatings will be exposed to more sunlight in space. Coatings that yellow prematurely might be able to learn from other coatings that do not."

After these samples return to the lab, new samples will be sent up. "We want to keep this is as a cycling event to continually gather new data and find new coatings that can be used on space stations and shuttles," said Ms. Kamenetzky.

This project is part of the materials International Space Station Experiment�a project that will test the durability of hundreds of samples ranging form lubricants to solar cell technologies. It is a cooperative effort between Air Force Material Command at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio; Boeing Phantom Works, Seattle, WA; and NASA's Marshall SpaceFlight Center, Langley Research Center, Johnson Space Center and Glenn Research Center.

* This online version has been edited from the print version

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