Advancing Environmental Technology with the IAEG and Our Competitors


By Jennifer Branton

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The International Aerospace Environmental Group (IAEG), established in 2011, is an international organization that focuses on environmental issues and regulations within aerospace. Boeing is one of the founding members of this organization along with 11 other industry leaders.

With the ever-increasing number of regulations adopted globally, there was a large need to have an organization representing our industry while focusing on the myriad laws and regulations impacting health and the environment.

This group seeks to drive continual improvement in the processes used by the aerospace industry, thereby delivering consistently high-quality products and regulatory compliance with reduced environmental impacts.

Chemical regulations can originate from any number of countries that are implementing new policies. However, many of the regulations that impact the aerospace industry’s use of certain substances are initially brought forth by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) or the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

One of the European Union regulations administered by ECHA is REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals). Companies that manufacture or import certain substances into Europe are required to register with ECHA, and collect and report information on substances imported or used above one metric ton per year.

ECHA evaluates the information that is submitted by companies and assesses the risk to human health and the environment. A substance may be identified as a substance of very high concern (SVHC) if it is carcinogenic, mutagenic, toxic for reproduction, or persistent or bioaccumulative and toxic. Materials that are labeled as SVHC may become subject to authorization under the REACH regulation for continued use in Europe. When a substance is placed on the authorization list it is assigned two dates: a last application date to apply for authorization and a sunset date, which is the date when the substance can no longer be used within Europe without having been granted approval to continue use through an authorization application.

REACH regulations do not only affect Boeing. They also have an impact on the operations of Boeing’s suppliers, some approved processors and maintenance repair operations that service Boeing aircraft.

IAEG currently has about 50 member companies representing more than half of the aerospace industry with a combined annual turnover of more than $400 billion. There are several working groups that have a variety of focuses, ranging from monitoring and surveillance to reporting and replacement technologies. In particular, Working Group 2 (WG2) focuses on replacement technologies and has more than 40 participants representing more than 26 member companies.

In late 2015, the IAEG executive committee approved a change in the IAEG charter to allow collaborative work between member companies under a collaborative agreement. This was followed by a revision to the WG2 charter to define how these collaborative activities could proceed. The years of 2016 and 2017 were dedicated to developing the process flow for new replacement technology efforts and establishing the initial projects’ statements of work and collaboration agreements.

Five replacement technology projects were initiated in 2017 and are described in the sidebar.

As part of the REACH regulation it is necessary for all businesses in the aerospace industry that conduct business in Europe to find replacements for the regulated hazardous chemicals. Many of these materials pose a great challenge to finding an alternative that performs well enough to pass the performance requirements.

Collaborative efforts among these companies shows that there is an industrywide effort to find alternatives to hazardous materials and to be more environmentally conscientious. Additionally, the cost savings can be significant for the participating companies; the collaboration allows each of these companies to contribute a portion of the project financing rather than each individual company funding the entire effort independently.

Collaborative research among competitors can be difficult and requires a careful balance of strategic sharing of proprietary information to advance the technology and protection of proprietary information for competitive advantage. Individual companies are responsible to use their unilateral business discretion to decide if and how to utilize results of the collaborative research and efforts.

We hope these initial collaborative projects will be the beginning of a great resource for the aerospace industry to overcome technical challenges and find solutions together for hazardous chemical replacements.

Jennifer Branton is a Technical Lead Engineer in the chemical technology division of Boeing’s advanced research organization. She is one of Boeing’s representatives to the IAEG.

IAEG Working Group 2 collaborative chemical replacement projects

Hard chrome plating
Chromic acid is used in the hard chrome plating process to produce a thick hard chrome plating to be applied to steel or other metal alloys. Hard chrome plating is applied directly t a base metal by electrodeposition of a solution containing chromic acid or potassium dichromate.

The electrodeposition process makes it possible to apply hard chrome plating to parts with complex geometries. It is a cost-effective coating resistant to corrosion and to wear from sliding, fretting and environmental conditions.

Although several alternatives have been developed for hard chrome plating, none are direct drop-in replacements. Thus, process modifications and design changes will be required. The goal includes exchanging information to identify alternatives for hard chrome plating on standard parts and original equipment manufacturer designs.

Chromate conversion coatings
The second replacement project is focusing on conversion coatings that provide corrosion protection and electrical conductivity to aluminum substrates. The proposed solutions will be hexavalent chromium-free.

The goal of this technology exchange is to review the proposed environmentally compliant alternatives to chromate conversion coatings and summarize performance data provided by the participants and major suppliers. The team will then propose next steps.

Bond primer
Bond primers are used for a variety of applications and often contain strontium chromate, which has a sunset date of January 2019. In addition to corrosion resistance, bond primers enhance wetting capability for film adhesive contact and improve adhesion between the substrate and adhesive. These properties result in widespread use over many different applications.

This technology exchange will include replacement efforts to identify applications and the functional requirements, exchange technical information regarding past replacement efforts, and identify potential alternatives to current bond primer systems.

Cadmium plating on industry-standard parts
Cadmium functions as a sacrificial coating when it is plated onto copper, aluminum or steel substrates. A sacrificial coating corrodes before the substrate metal, thereby protecting it. Although some alternatives exist to cadmium plating, industry-standard parts provide an additional challenge to replacement. Cadmium-plated fasteners and cadmium plated electrical connectors are used extensively in the aerospace industry.

The design and manufacture of industry-standard parts are conducted per industry specifications. These parts may be manufactured by many suppliers across different countries and subsequently used by many different customers. The output of this work will include a list of industry-standard parts that are within the scope of this project; a set of the technical, commercial and environmental requirements of alternatives; and the resulting data produced from the requirements testing of these alternatives.

Corrosion-inhibiting epoxy primers
Corrosion-inhibiting epoxy primers are used to protect metals against oxidation. Oxidation occurs over time when metals are exposed to fluids, humidity or dissimilar metals. Like bond primers, epoxy primers also contain strontium chromate. This corrosion inhibitor had a sunset date of September 2017, set by ECHA and thus needs to be replaced with an alternative.

This project team will exchange information on test methods that have been used by the various team members for critical test requirements and establish a list of fundamental key requirements for the aerospace industry. The project team will create a list of available primer candidates that have the potential to meet the requirements. The scope could then be expanded to establish a test plan and begin testing potential candidates.