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Industry

State-of–the-Art Aircraft Paint Shop in Bydgoszcz

The paint coating process at WZL 2
Photo. WZL2

Wojskowe Zakłady Lotnicze Nr 2 S.A. (Military Aviation Works No. 2) is the largest Polish-owned aerospace company today. Paint coating, and paint removal from airframes is one of the facility’s specialties.

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The paint coating process at WZL 2 is carried out with the use of state-of–the-art technologies, which means that services rendered by the company are globally competitive. The facility closely follows trends and novelties in the market of applying and removing the paint coats. Considering the current technical development status, and the growing customer requirements (military or government-level customers included), it remains really worthwhile to closely follow how the WZL 2 grows.

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Infrastructure

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The paint shop department at the Bydgoszcz facility is among the most modern establishments as such, globally. These days it consists of four hangars designed and prepared for painting and preparing the airframe surfaces. The structures are 21 meters wide, 23 or 30 meters long, and offer height of up to 8 meters. The ambient temperature in the paint shop hall can go up to 40oC, and there is a possibility to adjust humidity in the range between 30% and 75%, with 0.3 m/s airflow. Another two hangars are used to paint the aircraft. Three out of WZL2 hangars have been fitted with a demineralized water humidifying system.

Buildings of the modern paint shop department in WZL2
Photo. WZL2

Two buildings are used to paint smaller parts in open booths, and in a closed, dust-proof cabin-dryer. The drying process utilizes endothermal heating, and IR drying oven for drying the details.

Thanks to the plant’s own wastewater treatment plant (90% of the water goes within a closed circuit), special air filters, and minimized emission of volatile organic compounds, the paint coating processes are environment friendly.

Painting Process

Removal of the old paint coat is the first step of the painting process for any airframe. WZL2 has gathered a lot of expertise in this area, and removal can be done conventionally, using chemicals, mechanically (matt sanding, sanding), or selectively - with the use of the PMB (Plastic Media Blasting) process. Next, anti-corrosive coating, primer, and the external coat are applied onto the airframe.

Removing old coatings is the first stage of the process
Photo. WZL2
Painting
Photo. WZL2

Then, the color proper is painted. WZL2 uses all types of painting systems, including wet pneumatic and hydrodynamic spraying for epoxy, polyurethanes, alcylic, acrylic, and PVC coatings. The offer also includes the more effective, electrostatic coating methods which are far more efficient - this reduces the total weight of the painted aircraft.

An ATR aircraft during painting
Photo. WZL2

The paint can be coated quicker, and far more efficiently than in the past. Well-selected, and properly applied paint coat translates into better fuel efficiency of the aircraft. They also last longer, than paint coats used 2 decades ago. The commercial dimension is also an important factor. Even the most complex paint scheme designs can be used. If the paint scheme bears high artistic value, then it can become a trademark for the client’s brand (such as an airline).

The company also has an ability of painting VIP aircraft, and create a coherent, unified finish, with some special effects, such as mica. This results in a stylish finish with good coverage and high gloss factor (>96%).

The color range for the VIP aircraft is far broader than in standard paint systems. Should a need arise, car paint samples are acquired, and the color codes of theirs are used to manufacture aircraft paint, with relevant certification for use in aviation.

Modern paint coating can be done with a higher efficiency now, which also shortens the process. This has been possible thanks to LED lighting solutions used in the hangars, imitating the sunlight, which makes the work easier. The hangars also feature technological solutions that accelerate the primer drying process. Thanks to the above-mentioned technology, multiple colors can be applied in time, that in the past was required for a single color to dry. The paint-coating process, and the drying process are monitored with the use of thermohygrometers that read the painting and drying conditions continuously, recording the temperature and relative humidity values. The above translates into a shorter time of delivery - the aircraft leave the facility quicker. All in all, an aircraft that does not fly is the aircraft that does not bring the customer any money.

New painting systems are also very durable, with easy troubleshooting procedures. The paint properties stay constant during coating, without a tendency to create the so-called „orange peel” effect, or streaks.

Decorative Films

In the recent years a technology of covering the aircraft with decorative film has been mastered by the civil paint shop of WZL2. That technology makes it possible to change the aircraft appearance quicker, and with a much lower cost, as opposed to removal and application of paint coating. The first attempts to use this technology took place back in 2017, and Sprintair ATR 72 aircraft was the test subject. In 2018 a logo was applied, using this method, on Air Burkina’s ERJ 190.

Durability

The paint lifetime went up from a couple of years, up to 7-10 years (depending on the operational profile and region). From the customer’s point of view, this translates into major time and money savings. This happens, as modern paints offered by WZL2 are also highly resistant to environmental factors and are easy to clean. They are also corrosion resistant.

New paint coats and painting methods also allow for optimization of heat management - the top coating reflects the sun and keeps the cabin interior and the exterior at optimal temperatures - when in the air, as well as on the ground. The paint also reduces drag, which contributes to better fuel economy.

An Air Burkina Airline Aircraft painted in WZL2
Photo. WZL2

The civil department views these services as a development field. It also keeps gathering new competencies. A group of employees just successfully graduated from a training course in applying aviation decorative films, organized by the manufacturer of such films - the 3M company. The films make it possible to expand the range of services available at WZL 2. Recently cars and aircraft of the Orlen GA Żelazny aerobatic team received such coatings. The same applies to the Artur Kielak’s aerobatic aircraft.

A "Żelazny" Group Aircraft painted by WZL2
Photo. WZL2
An Air Demonstration Aircraft of Artur Kielak, painted by WZL2
Photo. WZL2

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