How Retractable Enclosures Can Reduce Costs in Aerospace Prototyping Facilities
The final stages of aerospace prototyping for commercial and defense products requires hundreds of hours devoted to structural testing and validation — all of which have to be accomplished with a sense of urgency if deadlines are to be met. During this high-pressure period, systems are assembled, tested, and adjusted to ensure functionality and abide by strict Federal Aviation and Administration (FAA) policies.
For practical reasons, these processes are nearly all conducted under one roof — an open facility with hundreds of thousands of square feet of floor space. In this vast open space, dozens of workers engage in their tasks to prepare the prototype for various rounds of static, fatigue, and rupture tests that often require clean-room environments.
A lot of aerospace prototyping work involves processes that release airborne particulates and contaminants into the facility environment. The two most prevalent occurrences are:
- Grinding dust
- Coatings pollutants
These byproducts have the capacity to affect operations in at least six ways — and often do if not handled properly:
- Employee health and safety
- Compliance with EPA, OSHA, and other regulations
- Functionality (e.g., failure due to Foreign Object Debris)
- Quality (e.g., grinding dust interfering with coating curing)
- Throughput (e.g., downtime for shop-wide cleaning)
- Premature wear of facility infrastructure such as HVAC systems
So, how does an aerospace prototyping facility solve these issues without introducing cumbersome or exorbitant equipment that could compromise its already challenging assignments?
Four Clean Air Strategies for Aerospace Prototyping Facilities
Given the combination of immense products and vast open spaces one encounters in aerospace prototyping facilities, traditional clean air strategies — ranging from personal protection equipment to permanent clean rooms — inevitably produce complications.
1. Personal Protection Equipment
One approach is to equip employees with respirators and other protective equipment. While this may keep them from breathing dust and fumes in the moment, it doesn’t dispose of the contaminants, which settle on the shop floor or in its ductwork. Eventually, this accumulated material needs to be cleaned up. That means direct costs for cleaning plus the indirect cost of any incurred down time.
2. Ventilation System
A second approach would be to install an industrial air circulation system that would create an airflow pattern in the facility that leads to some sort of containment unit. This type of system is expensive, especially for such large facilities, encompassing hundreds of linear feet of ductwork, dust collectors, structural steel, and permitting. It also invites ongoing air makeup costs.
3. Enclosed Area
Third, one can install a permanent clean room and then move parts or assemblies to it for grinding and coating operations. This works for smaller objects but larger parts and assemblies will need to be moved using material handling equipment, which is time consuming. Also, it doesn’t do anything for situations where grinding or coating needs to be done on parts that are already in place on the massive aerospace prototype.
4. Enclosed Prototype
Lastly, one can endeavor to create a clean room around the entire aerospace prototype. Permanent installations like this are impractical as they inevitably interfere with other work. But a temporary installation like this — one that could be deployed whenever grinding or coating work needs to be done — can be quite effective.
Why Retractable Enclosures Work
Retractable enclosures, such as the Duroair DuroRoomTM, coupled with the DuroPureTM non-venting air filtration system, are the perfect solution for aerospace prototyping facilities. They can be deployed when needed and then quickly rolled back and folded up to occupy footprints that are just 20% of their extended areas. Engineered to meet EPA, NFPA, OSHA, and UL requirements and featuring Duroair’s patented taper-draft air filtration technology, they contain dust, protect against Foreign Object Debris, and speed up the dry time for coatings.
Recently, we installed a retractable enclosure at an aerospace prototyping facility in North America. Our customer’s frequent grinding had been producing kilos of composite dust. They had to shut down production periodically to spend tens of thousands of dollars to clean their facility. Taking the retractable enclosure approach has made their operation more productive while also saving them hundreds of thousands of dollars in direct costs.
To find a clean air solution for your aerospace prototyping facility that will demonstrate rapid ROI and help improve your operation, request a consultation with a Duroair expert.