Success Story

Automation of Rotor Blade Erosion Coating Application Increases Productivity by 4x

Solves Challenges of Manual Application with Automated Process that Improves Coating Uniformity, Life Span, and Productivity

The U.S. Army used a protective coating on the rotor blades of military helicopters like the UH-60 Black Hawk serving in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other areas of the Middle East, to extend service life and protect from surface erosion and unacceptable wear due to the harsh and extreme weather conditions.

The procedure for applying the protective erosion coating to the rotor blades, however, was a tedious, manual process that did not meet coating specification tolerances. The time intensive manual application process resulted in uneven coating thicknesses and excessive waste of the coating material.

The NCDMM was awarded the effort through the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center(AMRDEC), part of the U.S. Army Research, Development, and Engineering Command (ARDEC), and worked with its partners, Aerobotix, Inc. and Kaman Helicopter to design and develop an automated process and build a machine capable of spraying Hontek Corporation’s protective coating in a uniform, consistent, and productive manner, while adhering to the coating’s strict application tolerances. An automated system also needed to reduce material waste and substantially improve productivity as it related to the number of blades coated in an eight-hour shift.

Maximizing application uniformity of coating while minimizing coating waste and occurrences of surface erosion

The NCDMM’s partnership with Aerobotix and Kaman successfully solved the manual application challenges posed by the erosion coating with an automated system. The developed system consistently and precisely sprayed rotor blades in a uniform manner and met the strict applications tolerances of Hontek’s protective coating, reduced coating waste, and minimized the effects of surface erosion. During final testing, it also improved productivity from one coated blade per eight hour shift to four or more blades.