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17 June 2011
Commercial Aircraft

Airbus takes preventative measures to lessen volatile organic compounds

Summary

As part of its ongoing commitment for a “greener” environment, Airbus has introduced new technologies and processes to reduce the amount of harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs) released during aircraft production.

A product of paints, sealants and chemical cleaning processes, VOCs can be difficult and expensive to manage – which is why Airbus is focused on eliminating them at their sources.

One successful example of this approach already has reached maturity at Airbus’ site in Saint-Nazaire, France, which utilises the patented mirror milling system – a clean alternative technology for the milling of aircraft fuselage panels. It is the result of a collaborative effort involving Airbus and machine tool designer and manufacturer, Dufieux Industrie, and produces no VOCs. In fact, the only by-product of this eco-friendly system is aluminum shaving chips – which are 100-per cent recyclable.

Airbus also uses innovation and operational improvements to boost the eco-efficiency of its aircraft painting procedures. At the core of this effort is Airbus' “base coat, clear coat” livery painting method, which requires only one layer of thick paint and a layer of varnish or clear coat for protection – dramatically reducing the volume of paint necessary per aircraft. 

The use of solvents to clean painting equipment also has been reduced by 90 per cent by changes to distribution methods, as well as through the use of lighter disposable wipes. In Hamburg, Germany, electrostatic guns keep paint mist to a minimum while exhaust air is cleaned and treated, which ensures that particles of paint can be disposed of separately.

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