Browse Publications Technical Papers 2011-01-2652
2011-10-18

A Large-Scale Robotic System for Depainting Advanced Fighter Aircraft 2011-01-2652

The general benefits of automation are well documented. Order of magnitude improvements are achievable in processing speeds, production rates, and efficiency. Other benefits include improved process consistency (inversely, reduced process variation), reduced waste and energy consumption, and risk reduction to operators. These benefits are especially true for the automation of the aerospace paint removal (or "depaint") processes.
Southwest Research Institute® (SwRI®) developed and implemented two systems in the early 1990s for depainting full-body fighter aircraft at Robins Air Force Base (AFB) at Warner Robins, Georgia, and Hill AFB at Ogden, Utah. These systems have been in production use, almost continuously for approximately 20 years, for the depainting of the F-15 Eagle and the F-16 Falcon fighter aircraft, respectively. Based on these previous systems, the Advanced Fighter Aircraft Depaint System (AFADS) has been designed, built, and installed as part of a large maintenance facility for advanced fighter aircraft.
The AFADS includes a number of technology enhancements, such as increasing the robot reach by an additional 10 feet to give it the capability of depainting any of the fighter aircraft in the USAF fleet. The AFADS is comprised of two identical robots (one positioned on either side of the aircraft), an aircraft positioning system, an operator control room, three levels of operator control, and an interface with the dry media depaint process. The media to be used in the process is MIL-P-85891A Type VII cornstarch-based media.
Though the AFADS system represents a significant advancement in robotic depaint technology, SwRI sees other opportunities to further advance the state of the art of aircraft depaint, particularly with regards to laser processes, automation control, path programming, and the application of mobile robotic platforms. SwRI, with their collaborators, is currently developing a new laser paint removal process that was recently demonstrated on the AFADS robotic platform.

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