The U.S. Air Force must perform regular inspection and maintenance on their aircraft to maintain fleet readiness and effectiveness in the face of aging aircraft populations and new high tech platforms with multilayer composite coatings. When a layer fails, proper repair requires the removal of the layers above the failed layer. Once the repair is complete, the coating must be properly rebuilt layer by layer to insure proper adhesion. Frequently, maintainers will remove the coating through a “racetrack” coating removal process that exposes each layer of the coating down to the layer to be repaired. This repair technique has proven to be effective; however, manual application of this process is both time-consuming and prone to manual errors. The Air Force desires an automated or semi-automated coating removal capability to increase the quality and speed of “racetrack” coating removal. For this Phase II Small Business Innovative Research effort, Cybernet will design and build a compact, portable Automated Coating Removal Tool (ACRT) for Air Force maintainers by leveraging our experience with designing and developing robotic systems. During the Phase I, Cybernet demonstrated the ability to robotically remove these coatings, while using force sensing to detect the transition between layers to insure proper repair shape and eliminate damage to the substrate.
The ACRT will increase the speed and quality of racetrack coating removal on military aircraft components leading to faster and higher quality repair of these weapon systems. Additionally, the technology will be applicable to maintenance and repair of commercial aircraft and can be leveraged in other industries, such as the automotive industry.