Evaluation project is underway at Norfolk Naval Shipyard

2019 CTMA Technology Competition winner is hitting out of the park with the Navy

The winner of the 2019 CTMA Technology Competition not only received a nice trophy for the curio case, but more importantly funding for a nine-month CTMA initiative. Atmospheric Plasma Solutions, Inc. (APS) with their PlasmaBlast® technology took home that prize. The judges at the competition immediately saw the benefits of APS’s coating removal technology and their enthusiasm has turned into “Validation of Efficiency and Effectiveness of Atmospheric Plasma Coating Removal,” an evaluation and study initiative that is taking place at Norfolk Naval Shipyard.  Why is the Navy so excited about Atmospheric Plasma Solutions?

Prior to application of new coatings, paints, sealants, and adhesives, coatings need be removed, and the substrate properly cleaned and prepared.  With over 230 ships and boats, surface preparation is a time consuming, labor intensive, yet critical step in maintaining integrity in these vessels.

APS kicked off the initiative with an informational session attended by 12 supervisors from different shops within the Shipyard. The next phase of the project included a series of APS-led demonstrations and training and certifying NNSY personnel on usage and maintenance of the tool.  The demonstrations included usage on the mock-up at the Blast & Paint Shop at Norfolk. This structure serves as a representation of surfaces found on both ships and submarines and is used as part of the on-boarding process for new personnel and skill upgrades for existing maintenance mechanics. After training, a unit was left with the Blast & Paint Shop so that they could gain experience with the tool and identify interesting use cases.

“They were very excited to see the technology in action,” says Glenn Astolfi, CEO of Atmospheric Plasma Solutions. “It is physically difficult to get spaces that form corners or get into crevices. But this technology is very effective at paint removal and in many situations is much safer to use than grit blasting, laser, or water jetting.”

Over the ensuing few months, both APS and Jaime Edwards from the Blast & Paint Shop have delivered multiple demos to various shops and trades at the yard. During these demos many potential use cases were identified to be formally evaluated.  Several coating removal jobs on the training mockup at the Blast & Paint shop and on the USS McKee (a decommissioned submarine tender) were identified as compelling use cases.

During this time, APS prepared a formal evaluation plan that NNSY certified PlasmaBlast users will execute in March 2020 to evaluate the efficacy of the process on prepared samples, shop supplied parts, the training mockup and on the USS McKee.

The primary objective of this testing will be to determine the benefits of APS’s coating removal technology and how it interacted on these various surfaces.  Consideration includes profile impact (if any), cleanliness, and adhesion of the new coating.  The purpose of this work will be to provide a set of test results that would serve as a baseline of plasma coating removal.  The difference in total process time, cleanliness, and profile from abrasive blasting or other current used removal methods will be compared with results from plasma blasting.

With Norfolk taking the lead, other DOD observers for this initiative will be: Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard, Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and Letterkenny Army Depot.

The results of this assessment and evaluation will be of interest to and shared with other DOD facilities throughout the enterprise.“Through the CTMA Program, the PlasmaBlast® technology is getting the attention of key people in the Navy,” says Astolfi. “The opportunity to get on the base and talk directly to engineers and mechanics. We’re greatly encouraged in how the project is going. It’s been a really great partnership between industry and the Navy.”