ENBIO Aerospace

ENBIO’s CoBlast process allows the surface functionality of metals to be transformed in a single processing operation. CoBlast is a clean, one-step coating technology that can match the performance of traditional multi-step, wet chemistry surface treatments that rely on the use of hazardous materials (e.g. acids, chromates, etc.).


This technology has already been successfully deployed in the space sector. ENBIO’s CoBlast process was chosen to provide the black thermal control coating for the European Space Agency’s Solar Orbiter scientific mission. ENBIO’s SolarBlack coating was selected from numerous candidates because it was the only technology capable of withstanding the extreme temperatures that the Solar Orbiter will experience en route to the Sun. The Solar Orbiter is scheduled for launch in 2017 and ENBIO’s SolarBlack coating will provide the first line of defence in the heat-shield. This will ultimately make ENBIO’s SolarBlack coating the closest man-made object to the sun.


After our success in the space sector, ENBIO is now strategically targeting the aerospace industry to deploy our CoBlast technology. The island of Ireland as a whole has significant activity in the aerospace sector, from OEM’s and Tier 1 suppliers in Northern Ireland to MRO’s in the Republic of Ireland. In Q4 2014, ENBIO opened ENBIO Aerospace as a wholly owned subsidiary in Northern Ireland to become our base of operations from which to serve the aerospace sector.


The global aerospace sector is due to grow significantly over the next 15 years and will be valued at approximately $4.14tr. It is estimated that during this time, over 56,000 new civil aircraft will be produced. While the aerospace industry is often at the forefront of technology and innovation, it still relies on traditional wet chemistry techniques to functionalize a metals surface prior to assembly.


This will lead to two key challenges that the aerospace will have to overcome. Firstly, this increased production will put significant strain on the current capability of metal finishers that rely on multi-step surface treatments. Secondly, REACH regulations will eventually restrict the use of the hazardous chemicals that are currently in use and the industry relies on.


ENBIO envisage CoBlast as solving these two challenges at once. Firstly, CoBlast is a clean, dry one-step process that does not rely on hazardous materials. Not only will this allow the chemical baths to be removed from current production processes, but the auxiliary equipment needed to treat the waste water will also be obsolete. The potential environment impact could revolution the aerospace coatings industry. Secondly, current aerospace surface treatments represent a bottleneck in the production of aircraft. When the CoBlast process begins to scale-up, ENBIO will have the ability to coat large components in a one-step process with comparable speed to current grit-blasting technologies.


ENBIO have already applied our CoBlast process to multiple aerospace applications. For example, Figure 1 shown comparable lap-shear strength of an aerospace grade film adhesive bonded to a CoBlast Primer versus the industry standard (chromic acid anodization + primer). This was achieved without the need for hazardous materials. Figure 2 shows that certain CoBlast coatings can also be used as corrosion inhibiting primers. In this example, a CoBlast ‘Skin’ was used as a primer for a clear, two-pack epoxy paint. Compared to the zinc plated coupon, the CoBlast primer performed significantly better with little delamination of the epoxy paint layer. To illustrate the versatility of the CoBlast process, it can also be used to deposit a non-stick PTFE coating. Figure 3 shows a film adhesive peeling off a steel substrate with a PTFE ‘Skin’. ENBIO are developing this coating for mould release, anti-fouling and low-friction applications.


Joseph Mohan

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