Under the Ministry of Defence, specifically the Air Force, Atelier Industriel de l‘Aéronautique (AIA) based in Bordeaux, France is responsible for the industrial maintenance and overhaul of the Aeronefs engines.
AIA had to renew their shot blasting machines as most of their equipment was becoming obsolete and dated back to the 1960’s. Moreover, given the space constraints in the factory at the time, the machines were located in a higher level with a staircase to access them. This meant that all the maintenance operations on the machines had to be done from underneath. Also, the shot blast machines no conformed to the latest standards for safety and the environment in use in the aerospace industry.
Further to a tender organised by SIAe (the parent company), Wheelabrator’s experts offered a tailor-made solution for this application: the Ventus 170 blast cabinet.
The Ventus 170 is a suction type hand blasting cabinet specially designed for applications with very strict quality and productivity requirements. The cabinet offers state-of-the-art functions allowing the reduction of media usage in the operating mix, mainly due to the use of a power pack, equipped with a cyclone combining the recycling of the media and the de-dusting. This type of equipment is mainly used for applications such as depainting, superfinishing, surface preparation prior to painting, corrosion removal and cleaning in general. The Ventus 170 has a cabinet size of 1700 x 1700 x 2000mm and can accommodate parts up to 1500 x 1000 x 1200mm in size.
In 2009, to answer the customer’s technical specification Wheelabrator proposed two machines. The first machine is a manual type machine dedicated to de-painting, using plastic media, which allows a very soft treatment of the part. It replaces a blastroom using vegetal media bought in the 1960’s. With the old equipment, the operator had to wear overall protective clothing and blast the part inside the blasting chamber. With the new Ventus 170, all the operations are carried out from outside the blast cabinet, which gives more comfort to the operator and is more environmentally responsible.
The Ventus 170 cabinet also answered AIA’s concerns regarding space constraints, it did not require any civil works to be done as the machine is pitless and does not need an upper level for maintenance. The second machine is similar to the first machine but has an automatic horizontal movement of the nozzle. It is dedicated to the cleaning of the parts prior to painting and uses aluminum oxide.
With the second machine, the cycle time is reduced as the cleaning of the parts can be achieved automatically while the operator is using the first machine for the manual depainting. Wheelabrator Group won the tender as its solution proved to be the most cost effective and technically advanced offer.
Moreover, AIA de Bordeaux was already using Wheelabrator technology with full satisfaction. In 2005 AIA had consulted Wheelabrator to find the best solution for the de-painting of composite parts, which resulted in an order being placed for an automatic plastic media blasting machine.