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What Makes an Aerospace Paint Booth Different?

Aerospace paint booths or paint hangers are different than most other types of paint booths in many ways. Temperature, humidity, and exposure to compounds in aerospace coatings must be tightly controlled. One of the biggest and most notable differences is the shape and size of paint booths used for aerospace coatings. Some may be small, medium, and even large rooms dedicated for painting aircraft parts and small to medium sized aircraft.

Inside the cabin of an aerospace paint booth installation

Not Your Standard Booth Design

When an aircraft paint booth or painting hanger is very large, reducing the overall volume of the interior of the paint booth or a paint hanger is very important. One way this can be done is by designing the interior of the paint booth insert or paint hanger to conform to the shape and size of the aircraft being painted inside. By making a design that accommodates the body of the aircraft, the overall airflow needed is reduced, thus minimizing the overall heat, cooling, humidity and control capacity required. Not only is the size of the air handlers needed reduced and more affordable, the overall energy needed to condition the aircraft paint booth or aircraft corrosion control hanger is greatly reduced. This translates to saving on energy every day for the life of the installation.

Aerospace paint booths with a conformed design are more efficient work spaces since hoses, reels, electric, air, water can be installed closer to where they will be needed. Curtains can also be integrated into the design of the aircraft paint booth or hanger. These curtains or dividers can be drawn down to isolate the aircraft painting spray area or make several areas for prepping parts, substrates or spraying aircraft coatings. If radiant heat technology is used to heat the paint booth or aircraft paint hanger, the lower sections and upper sections are closer in proximity to the body of the aircraft being painted. This offers better heat distribution for the aircraft as well as the painters or workers working in the corrosion control hanger.

An example of an aerospace paint booth conforming to the shape of the aircraft

Another design option is to construct a free standing paint booth or hanger insert that fits inside a new or existing aircraft hanger. A benefit to this is less or no engineering required with regards to the new or existing hanger to support the aircraft paint booth structure. The existing hanger does not need to be completely re-outfitted with explosion proof fixtures and materials rated class 1 division 1 since the existing hanger is not a spray space. The spray area is contained inside the paint booth, and the rest of the existing hanger can be left as is and can be used as normal space or for other operations needed in a corrosion controlled aircraft hanger.

Air Temperature and Humidity

When spraying aerospace coatings on large aircraft inside a paint booth or aircraft painting hanger, the size becomes a major point of analysis by engineers. When conditioning air to such a degree of exact standards (usually imposed by the aerospace coating manufacturer in order to ensure proper performance of the coating) it is important to understand exactly how much energy is used to achieve these near perfect air conditions. Aerospace paint booths require the addition of heat and/or cooling as well as humidification or dehumidification to get the air inside the paint booth or aircraft paint hanger to the specifications required.

Heated air units being installed for a helicopter paint booth

Enhanced Filtration

Many aircraft coatings contain chromium which is a hazardous element that must be filtered and neutralized to adhere to emissions standards and regulations. The National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants, or NESHAP, dictates that filtration must meet minimum efficiency requirements in order to be allowed to operate. Method 319 is a test that uses potassium chloride and oleic acid to simulate chromate paint overspray and ensure filtration is up to code. Our NESHAP filter arrays consist of multiple stages of filtration to meet industry standards, and can be condensed or expanded into separate chambers to allow pressure readings to be read between each filter section. Carbon filtration may also be employed to help neutralize certain elements found in the chemistry of aerospace coatings and materials.

Exploded view of a four stage NESHAP filter wall

Airflow and Recirculation

Moving the air through an aerospace paint booth or painting hanger can be challenging due to the requirements for temperature, humidity, and speed. In addition, the shape of the aircraft can affect the airflow pattern and, if not addressed, can result in unfavorable spraying conditions. Due to the aerodynamics of aircraft bodies, it is recommended that a crossflow setup is used when designing a painting and refinishing space. By introducing the air at the front of the aircraft, the current can travel smoothly along the body of the aircraft towards the rear of the booth and be exhausted efficiently. By keeping the airflow moving freely, overspray is minimized and operations run more efficiently.

Airflow diagram of an aerospace paint booth in a crossflow configuration

Getting air to flow properly is important, but so is recirculation in aerospace paint booths and corrosion control hangers that are spraying aerospace coatings. The MACT (Maximum Achievable Control Technology) standard is a level of control to reduce hazardous air pollutant emissions, and must be met to ensure recirculated air is safe to work in. Airflow and air speed lfm requirements for paint booths required by OSHA, NFPA, and the department of environmental protection can be met with the use of recirculation while still saving the aerospace corrosion control facility energy.

Another reason air recirculation is important is heat reclaim. On a large aircraft paint booth or aircraft maintenance hanger, reclaiming heated air can save thousands of dollars per month. There is no need to exhaust all of the used air and draw in fresh every cycle. The bigger the aerospace painting application, the more the user will save with the addition of heat reclaim.

LEL Monitoring

LEL stands for Lower Explosive Limit, and must be monitored using a device that detects hazardous levels of a combustible gas or solvent vapor in the air. Aircraft and aerospace paint booths and paint hangers must meet MACT standards for airflow and air speed. Several authorities dictate the airflow standards to maintain a safe environment in which to spray aerospace coatings. Airflow throughout the aircraft paint booth or paint hanger must be maintained such that the LEL is not exceeded.

A standard LEL monitor

LEL is one of many factors that come into consideration when designing an aerospace or aircraft paint booth or aircraft paint hanger. Many aerospace coatings contain VOC’s and other compounds that must be monitored in and around the aircraft paint booth or corrosion control facility. Many locations throughout an aircraft painting facility or hanger must be monitored in different ways. Where the aerospace coatings are being sprayed, a few different compounds or levels must be monitored. Paint kitchens or aerospace paint storage areas must be monitored separately and for different compounds or different levels of hazardous aerospace coating compounds present in the air.

Controls

Standalone control panels for aircraft paint booths or aircraft corrosion control hangers provide heating, cooling, re circulation, and humidity control at one convenient location for the paint booth or paint hanger operator. Aerospace paint booth or corrosion control hanger control panels that include BMS (Building Management System) integration capability allow several paint booths or aerospace coating application systems to be joined onto one local network. This network can be controlled by the larger building management system employed throughout the corrosion control or aircraft maintenance facility. These building management systems can control several aspects of the facility including the paint booth or aircraft painting hanger, hvac systems, pump systems, fire alarm, security alarms, critical facility infrastructure and emergency announcement systems, to name a few. Engineering an aircraft paint booth or paint hanger that can be its own BMS or integrated into an existing building management system is critical to some of the worlds most advanced aircraft painting, maintenance, and corrosion control facilities.