EVA talks to Mark Cancilla, PPG Global Director, Aerospace Coatings
Q: How complex are the latest VIP business jet design schemes, and how much of a challenge are they to designers, paint houses and paint manufacturers? How does the relationship between the three work in practice?
A: The complexity of design schemes, liveries and colours continues to increase. While this can present challenges to designers, paint houses and coatings manufacturers, this also offers opportunities for all three groups to grow technologies. PPG has significant presence in the aerospace and automotive coatings industries. Both these sectors have evolved to create new colour and special-effect capabilities that appeal to airlines, individual aircraft owners and car owners. New mica and other special-effect coatings including ANDARO® pigments by PPG offer a wider array of design options than were found not long ago. Now, when designers, paint houses and coatings manufacturers work together to create a new livery, often we find that the expectations of the customer can not only be achieved but exceeded.
Q: What technical support does PPG provide to paint shops?
A: We have an active, vigorous and knowledgeable field technical services team of more than two dozen coatings application specialists. They operate around the world to provide on-site training and guidance for painters, suiting up and operating equipment alongside them. They typically are called on when a customer is working with new products or encountering an especially complex application. Because they visit the paint shop and can see the conditions under which the painters work during the application process, such as high humidity and high temperatures, they are able to demonstrate how to overcome them. This guidance enables the painters to maximise efficiency for the best finish possible.
Before going into the field, the technical service specialist will work with our product development organisation to optimise application characteristics of our products in paint spray booths. We have paint spray booths with temperature and humidity controls within our development laboratories that enable us to simulate paint shop conditions anywhere in the world where our coatings could be applied. Once the technical service specialist knows the optimum application conditions, he or she will then go into the field.
Our growing field technical services team reports to our global technical services manager, Ben McCoy, who has paint application expertise gained over years as an aircraft painter.
Q: How much new technology is there in aerospace coatings today? What is new and different by comparison with, say, a decade or so back?
A: Exterior topcoat technologies have transitioned to base coat-clear coat (BCCC) systems as the automotive industry had done previously. The new aerospace BCCC products offer much longer service life, better appearance opportunities, faster application times and lighter overall weight than the previous direct-gloss products. Commercial and general aviation airframe manufacturers are qualifying BCCC products to their respective specifications, and coatings manufacturers have qualified their products to the SAE International’s Aerospace Material Specification 3095 for airline exterior paint, which is endorsed by most original equipment manufacturers. Painters and aircraft owners and operators around the world are increasingly using PPG’s BCCC product, DESOTHANE® HD base coat-clear coat system, in all climates and all conditions. It is already a huge success.
As mentioned previously, the aerospace coatings colour palette has also increased significantly over the years. In the past, airlines and business jet owners generally incorporated only solid colours into their aircraft liveries. Today, you find as wide a variety of colours and special effects in aircraft as you see in the automotive world, if not more so. This can stress the ability of the aerospace coatings manufacturers not just to produce the materials but also to ensure that they can be applied with robustness and repaired if needed during the application process. The best aerospace coatings manufacturers have been able to navigate these challenges well.
The industry has also begun to move away from hexavalent chrome as the traditional corrosion inhibitor. Critical elements in primers and pretreatments, corrosion inhibitors are intended to protect the metal structures within aircraft. Even though many new aircraft are moving toward composite structures and away from heavier metal parts, a very large number of metallic parts still exist in aircraft that require corrosion protection. Coatings manufacturers have developed technologies that replace hexavalent chrome with more eco-friendly corrosion inhibitors. PPG has introduced the DESOPRIME™ CF primer product line and AEROCRON® electrocoat primer to eliminate hexavalent chrome. Multiple corrosion-inhibitor technologies have been developed, and AEROCRON electrocoat primer not only eliminates chrome, but it also offers other benefits. AEROCRON primer introduced the dip coating process, which has existed in the automotive and industrial coatings industries for many years, into the aerospace coatings market, offering significant application cost savings and weight reduction, and we believe the best chrome-free corrosion-inhibiting technology in the industry today.
Developed specifically for aircraft application, new solar-heat-management coatings are giving airlines and aircraft owners more freedom to choose colours. These coatings reduce aircraft exterior skin temperatures by up to 25 degrees Fahrenheit/14 degrees Celsius to help keep aircraft passenger cabins cooler by 5 to 7 degrees Fahrenheit/3 to 4 degrees Celsius. Airlines and aircraft owners no longer have to avoid dark colours, which can absorb as much as 90 percent of solar energy that in turn heats the interior when a plane is on the ground. In fact, with solar-heat-management coatings, the darker the colour, the greater the difference there is in total solar reflectance.
PPG solar-heat-management coatings technology is based on development of novel pigment dispersions, or stainers, that increase transmittance of near-infrared energy, or heat, through a dark coating and increase the subsequent reflection from a white underlayer. The technology is modelled after the eggplant, which naturally remains cool to the touch even when exposed to intense sunshine. The eggplant’s dark purple skin transmits near-infrared radiation to the white interior flesh, where it is reflected and transmitted out through the skin. PPG’s innovative coatings technology works the same way.
Q: How competitive/crowded is the aerospace coatings market? What are the keys to success in this sector?
A: The aerospace coatings market is very competitive, although the number of competitors has not changed significantly over the years. This market demands high levels of technology to compete effectively, supported by in-depth knowledge and required products and components, and this is realised only after many years of participation. Industry suppliers invest heavily in new technology, experience long product development and qualification timelines, and manufacture products designed for application to aircraft that see a wide range of conditions. Aerospace industry suppliers must also anticipate changes, which recently have been many.