Research, Development & Innovation

One of the main goals of the TAFE-OFF program is innovation, by continuously researching and developing new technologies and methods to positively change the way aircraft painting is historically approached and managed. Traditional application methods although proven, we believe can be replaced with an improved processes resulting in unprecedented benefits across all aspects of aircraft repainting, and also engineering as a whole.

As a starting point we utilise the traditional hierarchy of controls. (Elimination, Substitution, Engineering Controls, Administration Controls and PPE). By breaking down the traditional processes of each stage and identifying ones where a new technology can be integrated to either Eliminate, Substitute or improve Engineering Controls, to provide the following benefits:

 

  • Reduce the time taken to carry out the task

  • Reduce the waste that task produces

  • Reduce the environmental impact the task has

  • Reduce the risk, impact or exposure to staff

  • Increase reliability

  • Increase quality and continuity

This can range from internally developing, designing and constructing custom tools and equipment in house utilising our 3D printer and laser cutter, to working with the Australian Federal Government and various universities in developing and commercialising brand new technologies unseen in the aviation industry.

 

Leveraging off our proposed PV solar system enables us to investigate and integrate emerging technologies into our production. Choosing to utilise proven but unconventional technologies such as electric towbarless tugs instead of the traditional diesel tug with a towbar, results in not only benefits in production, but also safety and the environment with essentially carbon natural towing.

With this mindset, we are creating an ecosystem of interlocking technologies resulting in a safer more efficient production and an environmental standpoint.


A technology that we’re exploring are the use of UAV’s to assist our engineers to improve, broaden and accelerate airframe inspections. Capturing a more comprehensive snap shot of the condition of an aircraft’s skins, map existing damage or corrosion and finally as another layer of quality inspection to ensure markings and schemes items are consistently applied in the correct location and colour IAW specifications.


The UAV’s would work hand in hand with Augmented Reality (AR) glasses to provide painters with visual assistance in where to place mandatory markings and scheme without the need to traditionally measure. A highly accurate 3D model with the customer’s scheme and OEM and regulatory required mandatory markings would be loaded into the glasses. FCA expects that this will significantly reduce the amount of time required to locate, measure and physically place markings and schemes, in turn saving the customer valuable time and money by reducing the TAT by at least 1 day per aircraft.


FCA is also currently working with the Australian Federal Government and various universities on developing aircraft robotic painting technology to enable paint coatings to be applied with never seen before, repeatable accuracy and finish to the whole fuselage of an aircraft.


The most notable being able to remove staff from a hazardous task (exceptional OHS improvements), weight saving by being able to accurately apply the optimum thickness of primer/paint producing material savings which will flows on reducing environmental emissions. A consistent, repeatable finish not yet seen in the industry reducing the risk of rework or issues in the future, possibly extending the life of the repaint. No human job or skill losses as painters would still be required for scheme and marking applications. All the while being powered by solar. The most energy efficient, safest and highest quality method of painting aircraft available.
Although these examples of innovation are not yet fully developed to offer as an option for this program, it demonstrates FCA’s acceptance and need for the industry to adapt new technology in painting tasks to improve safety, efficiency and environmental impact. The financial benefits of introducing this technology will enable FCA to offer a reduced TAT and in turn cost, being able to offer more slots to our customers all the while reducing the risk of costly delays from rework or low quality paint applications.

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