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Laser Coating Removal for Aircraft

NREC and Concurrent Technologies Corporation (CTC) developed the Advanced Robotic Laser Coating Removal System (ARLCRS) to remove coatings from U.S. Air Force aircraft. This system used a powerful laser stripping tool and state-of-the-art mobile robots to automatically remove paint and coatings from aircraft. This system simultaneously reduces the pollution associated with coatings removal operations while also reducing the total processing time.

U.S. Air Force maintenance depots currently strip paint and coatings from aircraft with plastic media blasting (PMB) or chemical paint removers. Both processes are costly and time consuming.  In addition, both produce large amounts of hazardous waste and harmful air emissions. (PMB produces toxic dust; chemical paint removers contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and hazardous air pollutants.) 

ARLCRS can remove coatings from aircraft faster and more efficiently than chemical stripping or PMB. It decreases the workload of maintenance personnel and supports continuous, 24/7 operation. At the same time, ARLCRS reduces the amount of plastic media, paint stripping chemicals and hazardous waste. The result is lower maintenance costs, a safer workplace, and a cleaner environment.

Future applications for ARLCRS could include applying paint and coatings, inspecting aircraft and performing basic maintenance and repair tasks.

This system consists of a commercially-available laser source, scanner and particle capture system that is mounted to and integrates with a mobile robotic base and surface monitoring sensors.  A team of robots wielding laser paint strippers works cooperatively to quickly and efficiently remove paint and coatings from the aircraft. Operators can virtually mask sensitive areas that cannot be stripped and generate reports about collected surface properties. 


NREC developed the mobile robots, sensors and autonomy system while CTC developed the laser coatings removal and particle capture systems.  

This project was funded by the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) / RXSC – Air Force Materiel Command (AFMC) /A4, as a subcontractor to Concurrent Technology Corporation (CTC).

Approved for public release by 88 ABW: Case number 88ABW-2012-2967
Video created and provided by the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center.