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Paintbond – a spray-on topcoat for aircraft

CSIRO and Boeing have developed a simple and effective ‘spray on and leave on’ re-coating technology that is used on every new Boeing commercial airliner.

An aircraft’s topcoat is an impervious polyurethane skin which protects the plane from extreme environmental conditions encountered at high speeds in flight ‘ rain, hail, windblown dust and sand.

As part of ongoing aircraft maintenance, the topcoat skin is re-coated to preserve its integrity. The topcoat must be mechanically abraded by sanding in order for these subsequent layers to adhere well – this is called reactivation.

The sanding process is:

  • time-consuming
  • fatiguing and laborious for workers
  • produces potentially harmful particulates
  • has the potential to cause damage to the aircraft.

CSIRO “Paintbondâ€

The CSIRO “Paintbond†treatment specifically targets and reactivates the coating system, providing a surface to which fresh paint layers bond firmly.

It is fast, consistent and safe, enables application of fresh paint layers without preparatory mechanical sanding, and can be applied on a large scale.

CSIRO set out to develop a simple spray-on, leave-on chemical reactivation treatment that not only met the in-service adhesion performance requirements of aerospace coating systems but also the following strict design parameters:

  • cost effective, with improved worker safety and reduced environmental impact
  • sufficiently robust to be applied on a large scale
  • no interference with the long-term durability of a diverse range of aircraft construction materials
  • rapid kinetics to allow direct application of fresh coatings within 30 minutes of reactivation.

The CSIRO team’s expertise in surface and interface molecular design was critical to the development of Paintbond.

The metal alkoxide-based, sol-gel-like treatment specifically targets susceptible chemical moieties on the cured topcoat surface without interfering with the diverse range of other airplane materials.

The technology is protected by two international patent applications.

The Paintbond technology has been successfully transferred to Boeing and is used across Boeing’s entire commercial aircraft product line, with over 1000 aircraft recoated using Paintbond.

The technology was instrumental in CSIRO’s recognition as Boeing’s supplier of the year in 2011.