Aerospace Industry Moving Towards a Sustainable Future

By CIOReview | Thursday, August 9, 2018
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Today, the Aerospace industry is at its peak with demand soaring in the commercial market. The strain on manufacturing supply chain puts the MRO (maintenance, repair, and overhaul) market under pressure to keep the aircraft in operation for as long as possible. The idea of sustainable development in the lines of the ever-evolving legislation is making the OEMs and MRO businesses to reconsider the use of various chemicals used in the plating process, most notably the use of cadmium. Over the years, the aerospace market has trusted cadmium as its deposit of choice for corrosion protection on anything where bare steel is present, landing gear, airframe structures, and flap tracks. Its excellent electrical conductivity, consistent torque-tension characteristics, and the ability to corrode sacrificially make it an apt choice.

Even though it provides operational effectiveness and overall convenience and is relatively simple to apply by electroplating, this toxic metal has long been the topic of debate in the industry due to its environmental effect. Releasing cadmium into the environment affects both people and the environment as it is not used by biological systems and thereby accumulates in invertebrates, algae, and plants. Cadmium damages the human blood filtration system, and also causes skeletal damage and lung cancer.

At the time when the aerospace sector faces an imminent ban on cadmium, technological advances such as zinc-alloy plating processes, non-cyanide cadmium plating baths, and environmentally friendly post-treatments are helping metal finishers meet current regulations without compensating with the performance.  Zinc-nickel alloy offers a more cost-effective, simple, and effective replacement as it does not require a post-plating, hydrogen embrittlement relief bake, and is a less toxic alternative. For better solutions, researchers continue to search for other options that can provide better corrosion protection with more environmentally sustainable materials and processes.