Implementation of the FLASHJET™ Coating Removal System 972611

The FLASHJETTM Coating Removal System is considered a fast, cost effective and environmentally sound method of stripping primers, paints and other coatings from metallic and composite substrates. The stripping head or End-Effector, moves about the surface to be stripped by a programmable eight-axis robot. The process begins with a flash from a high energy xenon lamp that “ablates” the molecular structure of the coating. Simultaneously, a low pressure blast of dry-ice particles cools the substrate surface and sweeps away any resulting residue. Additionally, a high pressure vacuum removes any effluent (paint, particles, soot etc.) generated by the stripping action.
The process is cost effective, as it requires no preparatory cleaning or masking. FLASHJETTM also does not require any post-strip effort that is normally associated with chemical stripping or sanding. The only by-product of the stripping action is the paint particles removed from the substrate, thus disposal costs are minimal.
The process is user and environmentally friendly due to the absence of chemical strippers and other difficulties inherent with working with toxic materials.
On May 6, 1996 the first production FLASHJETTM Coating Removal System was declared operable at the McDonnell Douglas Helicopter Systems facility in Mesa, Arizona. The process area was primarily installed to support topcoat removal on the AH-64A Apache Attack Helicopters that are being upgraded to AH-64D LongBow configuration.
While implementing the FLASHJETTM with the fuselage and associated details and subassemblies, several process issues were identified affecting internal disciplines. Examples of these issues included holding and locating the fuselage and componenetry, tooling required, the teaching of ScanPlans required to strip accessible areas, and others demanded timely attention in order to maintain cost, quality and schedule expectations of the new system.
The focus of this paper is to discuss the issues encountered and the solutions determined by the FLASHJETTM Implementation Team (IT). The discussion will focus on the AH-64 Attack Helicopter, but should apply to any structure where the FLASHJETTM Coating Removal System is utilized.


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