The use of adhesive substances in aviation is widespread. In fact, nearly every part of an airplane, from the engine to the exterior panels, uses some type of adhesive to hold them together. Therefore, a solid understanding of adhesives and their implementation on an aircraft is beneficial to prospective owners, maintenance crews, and pilots. In this blog, we will discuss what an adhesive is and how they are used to hold an airplane together.
The basic definition of adhesion is the ability to connect two materials in a manner such that the bond can survive various stressors placed on it. The actual science behind adhesion combines chemistry, material science, and geometry, and it is crucial to have a basic understanding of the various mechanisms which allow adhesion to occur. Chemical adhesion is the strongest mechanism by which two surfaces bind and involves either hydrogen, ionic, or covalent bonds forming between the atoms of the two joining molecules. This mechanism is also the predominant one used on aircraft. The following mechanism in which adhesion occurs is called mechanical interlocking. For this to happen, adhesive materials fill the pores on the surfaces of the adjoining materials, thus interlocking them. The final mechanism applicable to the aerospace industry is electrostatic adhesion, in which the charged surface of the adhesive material is attracted to the opposite charge in the target material.
With the various types of adhesive mechanisms in mind, we can now look into the specific adhesives used on an aircraft. Anaerobic adhesives are commonly used in the engine assembly and throughout the rest of the plane on threadlockers. This substance cures quickly at room temperature and is easy to handle. Since anaerobic adhesives can withstand extreme temperatures and exposure to moisture, they are the obvious choice for use in the engine. Second, epoxies have been used to bind aircraft components for years and continue to be a favorable choice due to their durable yet lightweight characteristics. Finally, cyanoacrylates are fast-acting adhesives used primarily to repair interior trim and fixtures since they work quickly and are resistant to cleaning chemicals.
In general, adhesives are used as a direct alternative or reinforcement to rivets in aircraft construction. Using adhesives instead of mechanical fasteners eliminates the need for drilling, allows for thinner materials to be used, and helps vibrational energy dissipate. In addition, adhesives enable loads to be spread over a larger area than traditional rivets, relieving pressure on the bound parts. Furthermore, adhesives provide a layer of protection against the insidious effects of corrosion and heat. Historically, many adhesive options required the target aircraft components to be pre-treated, which proved to be costly and time-consuming. As adhesive technology has improved, epoxy pastes that do not require pre-treated structures are becoming more ubiquitous in metal and composite structures like the wings. In addition to large structures, adhesives help seal hydraulic system threads, overhead lockers, in-floor lighting, and seat trays.
Several trusted manufacturers produce and continue to further study aircraft adhesives, including 3M, General Dynamics, Permabond, and more. If you are interested in purchasing aircraft adhesives that you can depend on, look no further than ASAP 3Sixty. We offer our customers an expansive inventory of over 2 billion parts sourced from manufacturers we trust. Additionally, we are owned and operated by ASAP Semiconductor, conducting business with AS9120B, ISO 9001:2015, and FAA AC 00-56B certification and accreditation. As you explore our expansive part inventories, we invite you to fill out and submit an RFQ form as provided on our website to request quotes for your comparisons. If you have questions about any of the services we provide, give us a call at +1-914-359-2001 or email us at sales@asap3sixty today.
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