An off-the-shelf (OTS) spray gun was useful for many aerospace robotic coating projects, but Aerobotix (ABX) customers have confined spaces where the gun would not fit.
ABX uses OTS High-Volume, Low Pressure (HVLP) spray guns to apply military & aerospace coatings. These HVLP guns serve as efficient, repeatable workhorses for ABX, coating everything from cruise missiles and rockets to radomes and bomb launch pylons. Several special programs have very narrow, confined spaces that are too small for the typical spray gun to safely be robotically articulated. ABX does not use the bulky needle adjustment in these guns, which is also an unnecessary variable, because the gun is automatically controlled.
Aerobotix approached and worked with a key supplier in developing a modified design that eliminated the needle adjustment and provided a more streamlined, smaller footprint product.
The difference between the standard HVLP gun and the mini version is shown in the comparison rendering. The mini-gun version is significantly smaller through the use of a micro-valve instead of a needle. The supplier was able to keep the plume characteristic identical to the standard gun, enabling a direct gun-for-gun swap so no robotic paint path programs would need to be altered and re-validated.
The mini version provides many benefits. One example is its reduced size allows easier entry into inlet duct parts of fighters, bombers, missiles, and UAVs that require performance coatings. It provides ABX with more freedom in creating the robot paths since it has more clearance than the standard model (i.e. risk reduction). Additionally, the size makes it easier for the gun to stay normal to the surface, which increases the effectiveness and efficiency of the robotic spray operations.
In developing this solution, ABX shows they can work with their vendors and think outside the box to rapidly and cost-effectively create solutions for their customers. Not only does the mini-gun provide a more efficient solution, but it also allows ABX to provide solutions for projects that the standard product would have been too bulky for. ABX is using the mini-gun on the six robots at Hill Air Force Base applying coatings to the F-22 inlets. The spray gun is also enabling incredible cost savings on the F-35 program. Contact Aerobotix to see if the mini-gun will enable automation in your confined workspace that requires precision coating application.