3M's laminate film flying high in tests
The potential benefits of being able to use polymer films rather than aviation paint to coat and protect the exterior of airplanes are significant, even in this advanced age of Mars exploration.
Speed, for example, is at the heart of aviation. But speed comes at a financial cost. Configuring an airplane to fly faster is expensive, since it must be designed in a manner to reduce drag, or improve the flow of air around the aircraft. Fuel costs are higher in return for swiftness, as more fuel is burned to produce the additional energy required to provide the necessary thrust. And more fuel means more weight.
The military is testing a lightweight polymer laminate film developed by 3M Co. of St. Paul, Minn., that offers real promise of better performance in each of those areas, plus a means of reducing the amount of hazardous materials created by stripping old paint and markings from airplanes.
3M, in concert with Boeing Co. in Seattle, has successfully experimented with using the polymer appliqué process as a paint replacement and the U.S. Navy began testing the patented material last October on an F18-B at a base in Maryland. Other military tests of the film include 3M-Lockheed Martin Co. projects at air fields in Florida and Mississippi. Commerical tests also are underway by Cathay Pacific Ltd. and France's Airbus Industrie.
The film's appeal is basic. By reducing the weight of exterior paint on an airplane, the operator has the option of adding extra cargo or passengers, which is money. Similarly, by reducing weight and drag, less power is needed to get the airplane off the ground and can be used to go faster once airborne. Adding three, four or five knots to cruise speed means a plane can fly further on a load of fuel than before and in about the same time.
Paint is good, but so is 3M's grasp of technology and folk wisdom. People who fly want to get where they are going fast, and have money left to spend once they get there.
A final entry call for PN Processor of Year
The nomination period for Plastics News' 1997 Processor of the Year will close this month. If you know of or work for a processor that should be recognized for outstanding achievement and general excellence, let us know.
The recipient of this year's award will be announced Oct. 13 and honored Nov. 1 at the Society of Plastics Engineers Processors' Conference '97 in Columbus, Ohio.
The award will be given to a company or a division involved in North American processing for outstanding accomplishments in financial and quality performance, customer and employee relations, environmental record and public service for the period Aug. 1, 1996, to Aug. 1, 1997.
To nominate a candidate, submit ASAP an entry form and a statement of 250 words or less explaining how the company has distinguished itself to: Processor of the Year Award, Plastics News, 1725 Merriman Road, Akron, Ohio 44313; or fax (330) 836-2322.