Air Tractor sets aerospace industry first with new electrocoat
Air Tractor hosted an open house last week to showcase the first electrocoat primer system for full-scale original-equipment aircraft parts manufacturing in the aerospace industry. The PPG electrocoat process was first introduced to Rick Turner Vice President of Operations back in 2011, but he had doubts whether the process was feasible for full-scale airplane parts. At the nudge of the late Leland Snow, Turner continued to pursue the possibility.
The two companies hosted elected officials, PPG executives, local businesses, aerospace industry representatives, and Air Tractor dealers to celebrate the launch and give a first look at the system.
The new system will reduce waste, weight and ensure uniform coating on Air Tractor's parts by immersing them in a series of specialized 5,000-gallon tanks and cure ovens.
The priming system includes a handful of versatile racks capable of holding nearly 3,000 different-sized-and-shaped airplane parts and uses an automated parts rack hoist to move them through the system.
Paint particles are suspended in the tanks and are applied through an electric current running through the racks and parts.
One person can control the entire process with an iPad, completing days of work in only hours. "We can do racks of parts that would take multiple days or a week to do, and we can get it done in a day. You can handle most of it within couple minutes, and then it can go be installed on an airplane immediately," said Michael Montfort, the E-coat lead person at Air Tractor.
Thanks to the electrocoat technology, Air Tractor has drastically reduced the number of parts using hexavalent chromium, a common corrosion preventative, and hopes to completely remove the use of the carcinogen in the future. The priming process before electrocoat involved hazmat suits and respirators due to the harmful chemicals. "With e-coat, we don't have to do that," said Turner.
“We have opened a new chapter in aviation manufacturing, and we look forward to the industry benefitting from the protection that e-coat technologies have provided in other industries for more than 50 years," said Michael McGarry, PPG chairman and CEO.