The use of inserts for painting fighter aircraft in the military has a long-established and proven record of success. It achieves all of the main objectives of a paint booth: protects against fires; contains the VOC’s; provides the proper environment.
Inserts have been used in civil and military facilities. The US Air Force has over 25 inserts and the painters who paint in them know what paint finish quality means. Wherever inserts have been used paint re-work has dropped, giving painters control over the painting environment they need to do a professional job.
Inserts have been used for fighters such as F-22s, F-35s, F-16s, F-15s, A-10s and UAVs. They have also been used for larger planes such as the C-17, C-130, C-141 and many of the luxury planes such as the B-707. When compared with a paint barn, they feature clean, smooth and easily cleanable interior walls and surfaces, excellent lighting, controllable and laminar airflows, and reduced paint re-work.
Paint Booth Inserts
A paint booth insert is a self-contained enclosure for containing the process operations of the painting process. The process considerations are safety, health, and quality.
- Safety: Fire is an ever-present adversary and must be a prime consideration for the designer. The guidelines for design of paint booths are contained in the many Codes and Standards that apply to the industry. The remedy to this problem is good airflow and attention to electrical classification.
- Health: The effects of volatile compounds and heavy metals on personnel are well known. The protection of the environment is a serious consideration for the designer. The safeguarding of the health of the employee from the effects of aerospace coatings is very important. Coatings containing metals such as chromates must be carefully dealt with. Some toxic compounds are also frequently used, especially in epoxy coatings such as CARC and RAM materials. The remedy is good filtration and control of hazardous materials and the monitoring of VOCs and LEL levels.
- Quality: The overall quality of a paint job is dependent on several factors. Airflow is very important, as is the quality of the process air introduced into the booth. Dirty or contaminated intake air will affect the quality of the paint job and increase the need for rework. At times, for a large aircraft, re-work can amount to several days of extra labor to repair defects in the coating. Defects can be visual and unsightly, but most importantly, defects can be the origin site of new corrosion. Inserts and paint booths provide good control of airflow and excellent lighting. They also provide a better energy management bargain because airflow is reduced to the absolute minimum required to satisfy the demands of safety, health and quality. The cost of air consumption is very high, especially in intemperate climates where replacement air must be heated or cooled. Reduction of airflow and recirculation are key energy management design tools.
Lighting is a critical and difficult design problem in any paint booth, but in an aircraft paint booth, for instance, different problems arise than in a truck booth. The underside of an aircraft amounts to exactly half of the plane’s paintable surface area, and is a difficult design problem to accommodate. In a paint booth insert, the very geometry of the insert helps to get lights closer to the surface and directed in such a way as to fully illuminate the aircraft.
Paint booth inserts are completely stand-alone facilities that require little or no structural assistance from the enveloping structure. This feature makes it extremely easy to erect a paint booth insert inside an existing hangar facility. Thus we say the paint booth is “inserted” into the hangar.
The use of paint booth inserts is cost-effective.
- By reducing the overall airflow in a paint booth, the size of the air-moving machinery is reduced.
- Horsepower is reduced and consequential electrical installation costs are saved.
- Ductwork and duct supports are reduced in size and cost.
- Accessibility to equipment by use of platforms and storage areas for consumables (such as filters) are reduced in cost due to reduced quantity required.
- Lights are located as close as possible to the aircraft reducing the quantity of lights required.
- Structural demands are reduced greatly due to the stand-alone concept, and thus steel costs and booth erection costs are greatly reduced.
- Paint quality is improved due to filtered intake air being moved at a controlled uniform velocity across the aircraft.