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MIL-PRF-85285 Capable “Controlled-Spray” Head for Automated Stenciling of Aircraft Markings



OBJECTIVE: Develop a MIL-PRF-85285 topcoat capable, high accuracy spray head to allow for the implementation of robotic stenciling/painting capabilities of aircraft markings. 

DESCRIPTION: Repaired aircraft parts must be repainted prior to reinstallation, and marked in accordance with T.O. 1-1-8, per AFMCI 21-117. The 402nd CMXG at Robins AFB currently utilizes robotic technologies in their repainting processes. However, the application of markings using stencils continues to be conducted by hand as the spray head used to paint large areas are not capable of fine, high accuracy swaths. An opportunity exists to automate the application of aircraft markings, creating a robust, efficient process absent of reiteration due to human error. Currently, technology exists allowing for the automated painting and marking of aircraft parts using patented hardware and software for “large -scale robotic inkjet printing on aircraft and other complex surfaces”1. Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) was awarded a patent for “High Accuracy Inkjet Printing,” in which ink is “printed” onto complex surfaces, such as aircraft parts, with high precision. However, the ink utilized in this process is not equivalent to the MIL-PRF-85285 topcoat required for aircraft markings in accordance with T.O. 1-1-8, per AFMCI 21-117. Furthermore, the hardware is not capable of spraying the more viscous MIL-PRF-85285 topcoat. The proposed research would consider the existing “Inkjet Printing” technology to design and develop a high accuracy, controlled-spray paint head capable of the “precise application of multiple graphic swaths of color MIL-PRF-85285 topcoat onto complex surfaces, creating a contiguous graphic image”2. The development of high accuracy topcoat “printing” will alleviate discontinues, spaces, gaps, and other human errors that result in the need for reiteration on an already time consuming process. Additionally, the development of such capabilities will expedite the painting and marking process, removing it as a bottleneck of the repair and reinstallation procedures. 

PHASE I: Develop a proof of concept high accuracy “Paint Jet” prototype. In this phase, the process will demonstrate ability to produce a controlled spray of MIL-PRF-85285 topcoat. Precise application, or “Printing”, of multiple swaths of color topcoat may be limited to flat surfaces in a single direction of movement. The prototyping in this phase will provide key input to developing the capability to create a contiguous encoded pattern over complex surfaces. 

PHASE II: Develop the high accuracy “Paint Jet” to a deployment ready state. Greater ability to “print” MIL-PRF-85285 topcoat over complex surfaces will be implemented. The “Paint Jet” head will be fit to the 402nd CMXG’s robots, and timed with their system to ensure the accurate and precise application of multiple swaths of color paint creating contiguous graphic images. The goal of the phase II will be working robotic stencil/marking capabilities resulting in measurable improvements in the processing time of repainting and marking repaired aircraft parts. 

PHASE III: A successful system could be marketed to other defense customers who require the ability to quickly apply markings using high resilience paint, such as MIL-PRF-85285 topcoat. 


1. Evans, Paul. “Blazing a Trail for Smarter, More Agile Automation”, Industry Today, Vol. 20, Issue 1, March 2017.; 2. “Patented SwRI Inkjet System Can Literally Ink a Jet”, Southwest Research Institute,, 28 February 2017.; 3. “Corrosion Control and Prevention Program and Marking of Aerospace Equipment”, Air Force Materiel Command Instruction 21-117, 1/afmc/publication/afmci 21-117/afmci21-117.pdf, 28 May 2014.; 4. “Application and Removal of Organic Coatings, Aerospace and non-Aerospace Equipment”, Technical Manual: TO 1-1-8, s/technicalorders/1-1-8.pdf?ver=2016-07-29-154634-250, 24 August 2017.

KEYWORDS: Stencil, Automated, Spray 

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