Robots revolutionize Army aviation maintenance at depot
July 16, 2012
CORPUS CHRISTI ARMY DEPOT, Texas (July 16, 2012) -- Corpus Christi Army Depot introduced its sixth robotic metal spray unit to coat helicopter components better, faster and cost efficiently.
The robotic metal spray booth mechanically bonds plasma spray to coat aircraft components. Instead of Corpus Christi Army Depot, at CCAD, artisans machining metal onto a part, existing components can be restored and put back into service.
The plasma consists of a high heat source, gas and a metallic powder, which can be anything from aluminum to tungsten. The powder adheres and coats the component without harming the bare metal.
"Instead of throwing away the part, we prep it and do the thermal spray so you won't lose the bare metal which costs the most," said Juan Medrano, senior project manager from Solzer Metco, a coating solutions center.
"This is actually going to have a return on investment of $2.6 million from an initial investment of $1.1 million over a life span of 20 years," said Lupe Lara, Mechanical Engineer.
Robotics have become a beneficial part of CCAD life since it reduces gun set-up time and rework while improving employing.
Darrell McIntyre, metal operator, says that the switch to robots has made the job go by faster and with more consistency.
About ten years ago, metal operators sprayed components by hand. They exposed themselves to hazardous conditions such as UV lighting and fumes from the plasma that required safety equipment from gloves to a full jacket, mask, safety glasses and ear plugs.
The operator would spray the components with multiple coats throughout the day, increasing the likelihood of human error with every coat.
"In the past we had to go in there manually to adjust all the positions every time we set up for a new part," said McIntyre. "Now we just punch a button, tell the system what part we got and the robot does the rest."
The robotic metal spray unit can spray up to two and a half feet per second, making the job more accurate and faster than ever before.
"It's speeding up the process because guys were having to work late but now that we have five booths we will be able to push through equipment and make deadlines," said Lara.
A better product that uses fewer resources and still comes out faster is business as usual for CCAD as they continually look for ways to improve the world of helicopter support.