Aircraft paint removal and repainting are required periodically during the operating lifetime of an aircraft for inspection, maintenance, and repair, as well as for changes in paint schemes.
Historically, paint removal has been achieved using chemical strippers containing chlorinated solvents, phenol and chromates, which created hazardous working conditions and were a major source of hazardous-waste generation.
The search for alternative paint removal techniques has led to the use of a wide variety of processes. Up to now, the most widely used alternative is based on the use of peroxides strippers. However, this method generates large quantities of sludge when the gel is scrapped off the parts and washed off with water. Besides, this method is time consuming because of the long exposure time required and shows unsatisfactory results when not operated at a high enough temperature.
Face to impending environmental regulations and increased costs associated to the handling and disposing of such material, it is obvious that aircraft manufacturers and maintenance centres need to investigate alternative paint removal methods.
Bicarbonate media blasting is a promising alternative technique, already used to remove aircraft paint by the US Air Force for several years. However, this technique has never been implemented at an industrial scale in Europe nor is homologated by European aircraft manufacturers.
In the BiMed project, SCOURING ENVIRONNEMENT, a French SME specialized in scouring and cleaning with environmental friendly blasting processes for a large spectrum of applications including aeronautics, proposes to define and qualify a versatile bicarbonate media blasting technique for aeronautical use. In that perspective, SCOURING ENVIRONNEMENT has partnered to RESCOLL, a private technology centre specialized in composites and polymers and owning the well-know Nadcap accreditation.
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