As aircraft get larger, the landing gear required to get them back safely on the ground grows with them. In a Q&A session, Poeton Industries outlines how it overcomes the unique surface treatment challenges these parts can throw up.
Aerospace is an industry which is highly demanding when it comes to surface finishing performance requirements and it is rightly renowned for its robust standards for the manufacture and repair of high-performance equipment. Components need to be able to withstand friction, extreme temperatures and corrosive environments while continuing to operate at optimum levels. As one of the world leader’s in surface treatment technology, Poeton Industries is constantly reviewing legislation, developing new coatings and offering support to OEMs to help them with their surface treatment selection and testing.
Q) What are the current heat treatment and surface technology challenges that face landing gear manufacturers?
A challenge that we are seeing is the EU’s REACH legislation and trying to find alternative surface treatments many of which have been on drawings since the early 1980s. Trying to qualify new coatings within the aerospace industry is a long and challenging process, with safety and performance of the utmost importance.
OEMs designing new landing gear equipment that needs to be fit for purpose for the foreseeable future may have little or no knowledge of surface treatments, and can struggle to understand what treatments are available and should be used on new drawings. What OEMs don’t want is spend many years developing, designing and testing a new piece of landing gear to find that one of the surface treatments called up on it, for example chromic acid anodising, won’t be available forever.
Q) What are the demands placed on Poeton in terms of providing solutions that cater for any FOD prevention, corrosion resistance, paint coating adherence, lightweighting, etc?
High quality standards are required across the industries that we serve, but none more so than the aerospace industry. Poeton has made a commitment to ensure we maintain these standards and that safety critical components can be relied upon throughout their operational life. We work to ensure that we meet the exacting standard of our customers, with routine audits of our procedures confirming we do as we say we will, including inspections of how we process parts as well as ensuring our facilities are operated in a safe manner.
Q) Tell me more about your thermal spray processes? What benefits do they offer in terms of wear and corrosion resistance?
We offer a range of thermal spray processes through our Gloucester Thermal Spray Centre of Excellence. This includes high performance ceramics, cermet and metallic plasma coatings that we can apply to a wide variety of steel, titanium, aluminium and copper alloys.
Additionally, we can combine our thermal spray process with polymers to offer the next-generation of non-stick coatings. This solution is tougher, harder, and with better release properties than conventional polymer coatings, all tailored to provide the ideal solution to the customers applications.
With the vast range of thermal spray options, it is also an ideal choice to replace treatments that regulations are set to ban. Thermal spray has already been identified as a viable alternative to hard chrome plating and we have begun testing this with some of our customers. Whichever thermal spray coating is specified, the treated component will benefit from increased corrosion protection, excellent abrasive wear resistance, as well as reduced fretting and surface fatigue damage.
Q) What parts are your solutions most suited to: trunnion, wheels, brakes, screw shafts, ball joints, all of these?
As we can offer such a vast range of surface treatments, we are able to support customers manufacturing trunnions, screw shafts ball joints and parts of braking systems to name a few. We will also offer support to customers in terms of introducing new treatments if they are required for a specific application.
Q) Can you mention the current programmes you are working on and how you engage and coordinate them?
We work within the supply chain for all the major airframers, including Airbus and Boeing. Not only do we work closely with them, including securing specific approvals, but also with their immediate supply chain. As well as the civil aerospace market, we operate in countless defence supply chains, partnering with the likes of BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin, and GE Aviation, working on platforms such as the F-35, Saab Gripen and the Eurofighter Typhoon.
Q) What kinds of rigorous testing procedures do Poeton processed parts undergo to ensure they pass airworthy regulations?
All three of the Poeton sites have their own fully-equipped laboratories, who closely monitor the make-up of all our surface treatment solutions. Along with regular audits and the processing of monthly test pieces, this ensures we can maintain the high standards demanded by the aerospace industry, including accreditations such as Nadcap, AS9100 and ISO 14001.
Q) What developments do you see happening in the construction and surface protection of landing gear systems?
One development that will drive future change is the issue of hard chrome plating. For years hard chrome has been a mainstay choice in surface treatments, providing exceptional hardness, corrosion protection and wear resistance across a range of applications. However, since the introduction of the EU’s REACH regulation it has been heavily regulated and banned in several industries and its main use is now left within aerospace. However, there will come a point where aerospace will also have to move on from hard chrome as well, and we have been working hard, along with the rest of the industry, to develop the coatings of the future. Headed up by Dr John Archer, the R&D team have been working on a series of replacement options. Their hard work is paying off, with several thermal spray solutions and a nickel-ceramic composite being identified as likely successors for hard chrome.
Q) Finally, please provide the latest news on any product launches you’ve made?
We have recently launched our brand new Apticote 480A treatment. This coating has been developed at our in-house R&D centre and combines the properties of electroless nickel with fluoropolymers into one exceptional solution. It can be tailored to the customers’ requirements, ranging from optimising the corrosion protection to providing the maximum non-stick and low friction properties.
The range of properties this coating provides means that it is an ideal solution across a wide range of industrial applications. We have also had customers looking to use it on cutting blades in food production, sealing jaws in packaging and pharmaceutical powder handling equipment to name just a few.