Make my spray

BAE signals significant leap forward for Eurofighter Typhoon programme with paint technologies at Warton Facility. Christopher Sell reports.

BAE Systems unveiled details of two spray technologies designed to aid production and testing on the Eurofighter Typhoon fighter programme.

A paint-spray system for the Typhoon has been commissioned at the BAE facility in Warton, Lancashire, which according to the group will allow the plane to be sprayed in a single application, significantly reducing the time taken using existing technology.

The system comprises four computer-controlled ‘man-mover’ platforms (moveable platforms that replace fixed access staging) that can be programmed with the specific profile of the aircraft. These platforms will be linked to a central processor equipped with the exact parameters of the Typhoon. The platforms will then move to a pre-determined point on the aircraft before they start spraying.

Traditional scaffold

As the Typhoon has stealth fighter characteristics it is essential that its body is sprayed in a continuous layer, according to John Siddall, project manager of facilities engineering at BAE at Warton.

This was not an option with the previous system, which used traditional scaffolding that was moved manually along the aircraft after painting was completed on each section.

The spray facility, which was supplied by French company REEL, was adapted from systems used in the civil aviation industry. REEL has also supplied the ‘man movers’ to Airbus for use on the A380 project.

Alongside the continuous spraying facility at Warton, BAE also announced that it has built a hi-tech shower test facility, designed to ensure that all Typhoon fighters rolling off the production line are completely waterproof.

The shower operates by wrapping itself around the aircraft and simulating the extreme weather conditions the fighter is likely to encounter during operation.

In an effort to mirror the effect of heavy rain, for instance, 136 full-cone spray nozzles, capable of spraying 100mm/hr over a 20-minute test period, ensure the planes are sprayed evenly — both horizontally and vertically.

Internal inspection

Phil Fazackerley, final assembly business manager for the Typhoon, said that once the spraying has taken place more than 80 panels are detached or unscrewed from the plane, and its internal areas inspected for any leakage. Its avionic bays, which should be watertight are checked, together with the waterpaths.

According to BAE, the all encompassing aircraft shower is a significant leap forward from the previous system, where a test involved manually spraying the fighter in a process that took around a week.

The defence group said that timescale was ‘greatly reduced’ by the new approach. Fazackerley added that the facility, which cost £100,000, is flexible and mobile, with the ability to be collapsed and stored at the side of the hangar or transferred easily to another part of the site.