Advanced Metalworking Solutions for
Naval Systems that Go in Harm's Way

Laser Ablation Paint Removal System on Navy Ships Expected to Reduce Cost and Environmental Impact


A laser ablation paint removal system will reduce labor costs and secondary waste compared to traditional paint removal methods. Photo courtesy of Adapt Laser Systems

Through a Navy ManTech-funded project, the Navy Metalworking Center is investigating state-of-the-art laser ablation technology as a cost-saving and environmentally safer alternative to paint removal. Removal of protective paints is required during in-service inspection, maintenance and repair of Navy ships. Current paint removal methods are labor intensive and/or generate significant amounts of secondary waste, such as used grit, sanding disks and spent chemicals. The recovery and disposal of secondary waste adds tremendous cost and environmental impact to paint removal operations. Laser ablation technology has been demonstrated to be effective at removing paint without generating secondary waste.

This project will evaluate commercially available, state-of-the-art lasers to identify a laser ablation process with reduced overall cost and comparable ease of use/removal rate to existing removal methods. Efforts on this project will focus on shipboard paint removal applications within the interior spaces of Nimitz (CVN 68) Class Aircraft Carriers. The Integrated Project Team includes Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding-Newport News and the Aircraft Carrier Maintenance Program (SEA 04XC). The team will also assess opportunities to leverage this technology on other weapons platforms such as the Virginia Class Submarine.

The potential benefits of laser ablation technology in this application include reduced life-cycle maintenance costs and environmental impact due to the elimination of secondary waste associated with paint removal operations. Previous Department of Defense projects have demonstrated cost savings of 10% to 95% for laser ablation paint removal compared to existing methods.

The results of this project are expected to be incorporated into the CVN 68 Class carrier maintenance procedures as an alternate surface preparation method and will be implemented at Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding-Newport News and Norfolk Naval Shipyard in the spring of 2012.

For more information, contact:
Mr. Robert E. Akans
Senior Technical Director