Air Force Reveals Coating Booth of Tomorrow
While defense spending may be set to increase in the coming years per President Donald J. Trump’s budget proposal, one place where the U.S. military will be cutting costs is in the paint booth.
The U.S. Air Force recently unveiled a new coatings application booth at Hill Air Force Base, near Ogden, Utah, that it hopes will save the government more than $300,000 annually. The new facility, set to begin operations this fall, will be dedicated to coating the F-35 Lightning II, a stealth multirole fighter that saw its first action in 2016.
The biggest money-saving development in the new coatings booth, the Air Force says, involves the circulation of air. Working with a team of government and private scientists and other personnel, the team behind the project modeled air flow and analyzed how it might be better handled.
“When coating an aircraft there’s a lot of spray and overspray that occurs, and a constant flow of air crosses a work area to take the excess spray away. Typically, ‘new’ air is forced through the booth to remove the harmful particulates,” said David Madden, of the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Materials and Manufacturing Directorate. “Using sophisticated computer modeling, our team was able to show on a simulation the pattern of air flow.”
The team then devised a way to filter and recycle much of the air, leading to what the Air Force says will be a savings of $330,000 each year in comparison with a more traditional coatings booth.
“Bioenvironmental engineers evaluated the models and determined that the models were good—this is safe,” Madden noted.
Built for the Future
The Air Force says the new booth was designed to take into account the increasing role robotics plays in coatings application. The booth has extra clearance room that will eventually accommodate automated equipment that will be involved in the coating process.
The booth is also equipped with sensors that will help the Air Force to analyze energy used in the coating process. This will help not only to optimize operations at the new coatings booth itself, but also at facilities throughout the military.
The new booth at Hill is the first of three that are planned, according to the Air Force. It’s set to be fully operational in October.