The Importance of Pretreatment, Primers, and Paint for Aircraft Surfaces

Aircraft are regularly subjected to a variety of stressors throughout operations, making it important that they are well maintained while having protection wherever possible. Whether an aircraft is in flight, being cleaned, or simply sitting in a hangar, all metal surfaces will face a risk of corrosion, the risk simply varying based on a number of factors. Corrosion can lead to various issues like pitting, and if left unchecked, the aircraft can be rendered unfit for use in just a matter of years. While regular washing and other practices that can uphold quality, one of the best ways you can deter corrosion early is through the use of pretreatments, primers, and paints.

For those less familiar with aviation assemblies, paint jobs and primers can seem like an aesthetic choice, but the use of these products goes much deeper. The initial step of any aircraft corrosion solution is to enact pretreatment, and this consists of depositing a substrate onto metal surfaces before any priming or painting is carried out. There are two common methods that designers use, those being anodization and chemical conversion coating. With anodizing, an electromechanical reaction is relied on to produce a film over aluminum surfaces, common agents used including chromic acid, sulfuric acid, and phosphoric acid. Once the film is established, surfaces will need to be washed and electrolytically treated with acid and water. Conversely, with chemical conversion coating, the metal of a surface is transformed into a protective film through the use of alodine or nitric acid.

Once the pretreatment stage is finalized, the sealant phase begins. This starts with the application of a primer, that of which allows for corrosion protection, enamel and sealant adhesion, and the creation of a barrier between any dissimilar metals. While zinc chromate long served as the most popular primer with its ample effectiveness and low price point, it has since begun to be replaced with non-chromated primer technologies in an effort to meet improved environmental regulations. Before adding any primer to a surface, the pretreated metal should be as clean as possible.

After the primer is set, the final step can be carried out: adding the paint topcoat. While the pretreatment and primer offer a large amount of corrosion protection, the paint coat enhances this for a longer service life of surfaces. In addition, the painting process is where airliners or owners can implement any aircraft identification that is necessary, or any aesthetic designs. This is where airliners may put logos, images, and other elements onto the body or surfaces of the aircraft. Generally, the surface finish will be implemented in a few even coats where the thickness is only a few millimeters, and aircraft operating in humid environments may use more specialized solutions.

If you are working with aircraft where you require materials for a pretreatment, primer, or topcoat, there is no better procurement platform than Cogent Purchasing for fulfilling all your needs. Here on our database, we have over 2 billion new, used, obsolete, and hard-to-find parts ready for purchase, all of which trace back to leading manufacturers that we trust. If you take an interest in any particular items that we offer, be sure to use our online RFQ service to quickly request quotes for your comparisons. Once we receive and review a completed form, a member of our staff will reach out in 15 minutes or less to continue the purchasing process. If you have any questions or concerns regarding our services or offerings, you may always give us a call or email at any time, and we would be more than happy to assist you however we can!


November 23, 2020

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