Pioneering Environmental Technologies
Photo: Boeing Photo
Reducing the use of chemicals protects our employees and customers, minimizes hazardous waste and reduces both environmental impact and the risk of future cleanup requirements. That is why Boeing is looking for ways to reduce, replace and — where possible — eliminate the use of hazardous chemicals.
Construction is well under way at our new metal processing facility in Portland, Ore. The facility will incorporate technology that replaces the use of cadmium plating with zinc nickel, which is now approved by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration to meet airplane corrosion safety standards. Cadmium, a carcinogen, long has been the industry standard for protecting metal parts. The new facility is expected to be fully operational in 2014 and will provide corrosion protection for many parts used on Boeing's family of commercial airplanes.
Boeing also is making major strides in reducing the use of hexavalent chromium, or chrome. Chrome is used in the aerospace industry to help paint adhere to the fuselage and prevent corrosion when aircraft are exposed to the elements at various altitudes. Boeing has been working for years to develop alternatives to chrome, which is a toxic metal that can be harmful to the environment and pose health hazards during the application and removal process if not handled correctly.
Boeing pioneered the use of chrome-free primers and paints on our military aircraft, including the AH-64 Apache helicopter, C-17 airlifter, and the F-15 and F/A-18 tactical aircraft. The program has expanded to Boeing Commercial Airplanes with airlines currently testing chrome-free finishes on 20 Boeing 737s and six 777s in commercial service.
So far, test results are positive, leading Boeing to use chrome-free paints and primers for the distinctive red and orange "sunrise" livery on the new 747-8 Intercontinental currently in flight test. If tests continue to yield successful results, later this year we expect to switch to using chrome-free paints and primers for all new 737s. Switching to chrome-free paints and primers is expected to reduce the amount of hazardous materials generated and eliminate the need for special handling of paint waste.
Photo: Boeing Photo
In addition to reducing chrome in exterior applications, the 777 program launched a pilot program last year to remove chrome primer from aluminum tubing used throughout the aircraft. As part of this process, design engineers switched from vapor to aqueous degreasing techniques for tubing, resulting both in the elimination of hazardous materials and the reduction of energy use.
Boeing is partnering with universities across the United States to research advanced technologies, including multifunctional coatings and sealing systems, to replace chrome entirely. We continue looking for opportunities to reduce the use of hazardous chemicals in our products and operations to benefit our employees, our customers and the environment.