Sky’s the Limit: 5 Industrial Tapes Used in Aircraft Manufacturing

Thursday June 16, 2016
Several different industrial tape products serve important purposes during aerospace manufacturing.
Several different industrial tape products serve important purposes during aerospace manufacturing.

Imagine you were about to fly on a commercial airplane, fastened snugly in your seat and ready for takeoff, when you overheard two flight attendants talking about how much tape went into the production of the very airplane you’re sitting in.

Tape? Tape?!

Yes indeed. In fact, several different industrial tape products serve important purposes during aerospace manufacturing:

Composite bonding
When manufacturers forge composite sheets into fuselages or wings, the process requires a lot of heat and perhaps even pressure to coax the materials into the shapes necessary for smooth flight. What could possibly be strong enough to grip the composites in place while they’re subject to high temperatures and external force for hours at a time, yet flexible enough not to adversely affect the materials?

Polyester films with silicone adhesives – commonly known as “hold down tape” for obvious reasons – can endure the rigorous conformability process composite bond requires without melting, peeling or snapping. Additionally, other products like nylon films with temperature-resistant rubber adhesive work just as well in instances where the risk of silicone contamination might be too high.

Surface protection
While aircraft manufacturers may ultimately construct the final product, ancillary OEM supply partners also contribute their own manufacturing expertise by building items like locking mechanisms, avionics, etc. elsewhere, then shipping them to the main production plant for assembly.

“ProtectRite protective tape products insure safe transport between manufacturing facilities.”

While this process makes production much more cost-effective for aircraft manufacturers, shipping over the ground, rail or air subjects components to risks like abrasions, which could compromise the integrity of the airplane before it ever leaves the ground. OEMs that wrap their components in ProtectRite protective tape products effectively insure their safe transport between manufacturing facilities.

High temperature masking
As aircraft manufacturers begin assembling components, they often use tools that produce a lot of heat. These instruments help production technicians affix components to the airframe or aid in the composite bonding process, but without taking the proper precautions, the high temperatures these tools generate could jeopardize adjacent electronics or even base materials. When applied, high temperature masking shields these vulnerable elements against temperatures as high as 400 degrees Fahrenheit, thereby preventing damage.

Moisture barrier
Tape products with moisture barrier protection protect both aircraft manufacturers and component OEMs. First, all aircrafts have systems resembling a common heating, air conditioning and ventilation system. With that in mind, moisture barrier tapes with aluminum foil backing adhere to galvanized ductwork, even in the most hard-to-reach places with easy removal that leaves behind little to no residue.

The fun doesn’t stop there – in the transportation process between manufacturing facilities, OEMs may demand added moisture control beyond surface protection to safeguard their goods against the elements. For instance, transporting a cockpit door by rail over a long distance could expose it to cold and warm climates, creating unavoidable dampness in the railcars. Intelligently applied moisture barrier tapes, therefore, could stop condensation from seeping into sensitive areas and damaging components en route to assembly.

Painting and stripping
Finally, no aircraft is complete without a fresh coat of paint or vinyl graphic. That said, for all intents and purposes, the aircraft at this point is actually complete, windows and latches included, as well as many other pieces that paint or other solvent-based coating products should not come in contact with.

Industrial painting and stripping tape products do far more than the average painter’s tape available at your local hardware store. Ideal Tape products can withstand both painting and electroplating processes, conform to irregular angles and surfaces, cling tightly to ensure a consummate seal and remove easily once the job is finished. Painting and stripping products can even be torn by hand to make application less labor intensive. They can also be self wound so buyers retain as much of the tape as possible in an effort to stay cost-effective.

Sure, maybe tape isn’t the first thing you think about when air travel crosses your mind, but without it, aircraft manufacturers would be – for lack of a better word – stuck using inferior and expensive materials like glues and resins. But thanks to industrial aerospace tapes at their disposal, businesses save money, save time and save the quality of their aircraft.

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