Surface Finishing Challenges In Aviation Manufacturing – Etching and Bonding Composites

Lightweight composites like carbon fiber and alloys like titanium are used extensively in aviation as a substitute for heavier materials that are prone to corrosion or stress cracking or are dependent on rivet fastening. Components made of these smooth and often resin-layered materials are traditionally etched using manual sanding or dry blasting. However, these less-than-ideal approaches present significant performance, application and operational challenges, including uneven etching patterns, damage to fibers or abrasives embedded in the material, both of which compromise coating and bond strength.

Benefits of Wet Blasting with Wet Technologies for Aviation Bonding Preparation

Using a closed-loop, wet-slurry, self-filtered system from Wet Technologies not only improves surface finishing applications of all kinds, but also benefits the aviation industry in dramatic and tangible ways, including…

  • Creating even, uniform etching patterns that minimize or eliminate finish variations to maximize the strength of bonding and coating.
  • Near or complete elimination of embedded abrasive media, and related voids, which result in weakened bonds.
  • Ability to etch, rinse and dry surfaces in a non-chemical, water-based, closed-loop self-filtered system in one integrated, multiple-step work cell — right on the production floor.
  • Stringent manufacturing standards, low maintenance needs and the easy operational requirements of our systems speed ROI and reduce TCO.

Who in Aviation Manufacturing Relies on Solutions from Wet Technologies?

Bell Helicopter —
Multiple semi and fully automated systems for etching composite and alloy blade components

Bell Helicopter Logo

Boeing Company —
Fully Automated system to etch Chinook rotor blades

Boeing Logo

National Institute for Aviation Research —
Complete lab system enabling ongoing test and evaluation of Wet Technology processes in application for multiple airframe manufacturers


Pratt & Whitney —
Six axis robotic surface etching system for jet engine components

Spirit Aero Aerosystems —
Fully automated Wet Technology systems for treating floor beams in Boeing 777 aircraft

Sikorsky Helicopter —
Multiple semi and fully automated systems for lab testing and production of Blackhawk family rotor blades

The etching on the beams has been consistent from the start.
All in all, a smooth project.
Northrup Grumman, Sunnyvale, CA
Materials, build quality, and attention to detail are exceptional…the machine is impressive.”
GE Aviation, Lynn, MA