Aircraft Maintenance – Rotary Wing

World’s only laser ablation system in production use on flight-critical surfaces

Strip paint, corrosion, and protective coatings from rotor blades and fuselage skins. Closed-loop laser ablation is ideal for these applications because it completely strips any foreign substance:

  • with no effect on the substrate,
  • with no repetitive manual effort,
  • with no residue on the stripped surface,
  • faster than any other technique,
  • the stripped material can be captured in a paper filter, for easy control and inexpensive disposal.

Our system offers two options for stripping rotary wing aircraft: Operator-controlled, and Robotically-controlled.

Operator Controlled:

Laser Ablation System at Pax River

This 400-watt manual Lasertronics system was delivered to the Pax River Presidential Helicopter Base in Maryland. From left: chiller, laser, umbilical cable, workhead.

Our system puts a flexible color-selective laser stripping workhead in the hands of the operator. The workhead weighs about two pounds (one kilogram) and moves easily at the end of its 50 meter (150 foot) umbilical cord.

Moving the workhead over the area to be stripped delivers quick ablation of any paint, coating, or corrosion on the surface. The operator can watch the coating disappear, and can hear micro-popping as the superheated coating jumps off the cool surface. This visual and aural feedback helps the operator keep the workhead at the correct distance from the surface, while closed-loop control of the laser prevents any damage to the substrate (see videos to the right).

Robotic:

Automated laser ablation system

The Automatic Rotor Blade Stripping System at Naval Fleet Readiness Center East reduces the time to strip the coating from a rotor blade by over 90%, from 24 hours manually to 2 hours.

When combined with an industrial robotic system, our laser automatically strips the target surface. Our Automatic Rotor Blade Stripping System (ARBSS) strips rotor blades with no human intervention beyond clamping the rotor blade in place.

This system reduces time-to-strip by 90% for the H-53 rotor blade stripping facility at the Navy’s Fleet Readiness Center–East, from about 24 hours (manual labor and rotary sanders) to about two hours per blade with ARBSS. Currently under development, our Robotic Automated Coatings Removal System (RACRS) will extend this concept to stripping an entire aircraft, automatically. The initial system is targeted to strip the Navy’s V-22 Osprey, and will be extendable to other airframes.

Stripping the coating from a helicopter rotor blade using traditional sand blasting

Legacy technique: Stripping the coating from a rotor blade using orbital sanders.