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Handheld Laser Eliminates Costly Waste Streams

Handheld laser devices that can remove paint from small-area aircraft

Handheld laser devices that can remove paint from small-area aircraft

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- AFRL scientists and engineers, working with Air Force Materiel Command, identified and tested several portable handheld laser devices that can remove paint from small-area aircraft surfaces and individual aircraft components without the use of hazardous chemical strippers or abrasive blast media. The positive laboratory tests are helping the Air Force (AF), Army, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and commercial industry evaluate laser coating removal applications. The test results are also helping to advance the development of fully automated paint removal capabilities.

The tests demonstrated that the handheld Nd:YAG (neodymium:yttrium aluminum garnet) laser system is a highly efficient and versatile tool for coating removal. Continued research could lead to the successful development of large-scale, fully automated robotic systems that reduce or eliminate waste streams, lower costs, and provide reliable alternatives to conventional coating removal methods.

Laser technology is proven and available, and could provide AF depots and field units with a faster, less expensive, environmentally friendly alternative to coating removal operations that traditionally rely on chemicals, blast media, and hand sanding. Laser systems would also be applicable to large-area aircraft surfaces and individual components, as well as aviation support equipment, ground support equipment, and weapons systems.