Current coating systems used on Department of Defense (DoD) aircraft provide protection from atmospheric degradation as well as other functions. These systems are generally stripped and repainted every four to six years, a difficult and expensive process with considerable environmental impact. Manufacturers of protective film technologies have recently developed appliqué films aimed at replacing aircraft exterior paints. The objective of this project was to address and quantify issues of application, removal, repair, maintenance, inspectability, and long-term reliability and to asses the cost of using this alternative system.

Demonstration Results

The demonstration successfully mapped a C-130 aircraft using laser and generated an electronic three-dimensional data file. From this data file, a computer code was developed for an ultrasonic cutter that was used by the Air Force Advanced Composites Office at Hill Air Force Base in Utah to cut appliqué gores for the C-130 aircraft. The project prepared a draft Design Guide and developed the materials for a training workshop. 3M manufactured 15,000 square feet of FP-500 appliqué that passed the initial quality assurance tests and met the appearance and performance requirements. The appliqué technology was demonstrated to the C-130 Program Office and was concluded to be not sufficiently mature to support further testing. 

This project was terminated until the technology becomes sufficiently mature to merit a demonstration and validation effort. (Project Completed - 2000)

Implementation Issues

Once successfully developed, the appliqué films should provide a durable weather-resistant finish for aircraft. The materials would be available as pre-cut gores or a roll sheet with a protective layer over the adhesive. Application would require simple measuring and cutting tools, and with minimal training, installation should be possible in any enclosed area.