Extending the lifecycle of carbon disks
DURACARB® brakes already provide Collins with the ability to reduce the number of disks made in production due to their long-lasting wear life. The EDL® process then allows Collins to further double the already-long disk life.
When brakes wear out and are returned to Collins Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) centers in Hong Kong, London and Los Angeles, the disks that started out thick can be machined to create thinner disks that can be used again for a second field life. When those disks are subsequently worn and returned, the disks are sent to carbon machining experts in Pueblo, where they can be further inspected, machined and re-assembled into what is called a thick two-for-one disk that can then be certified and sent back out to the MRO sites for two additional field lives.
The EDL® process, used by the Wheel & Brake team in Pueblo – as well as by its sister teams in Spokane and Santa Fe Springs – has the potential to extend a brake’s lifecycle from what was previously one or two tours, or lives, in the field, to as many as three or four.
Less waste in the landfill
But what about the worn-down pieces that are too thin to use again? The vast majority of them are shipped down the road to a local steel mill in Pueblo. Delivered unprocessed and “as is,” the steel workers take the worn carbon brakes and use them as a key ingredient in the steel making process to construct new products, such as seamless pipe, rod and rails for railroads.
Hayes says the mutually-beneficial arrangement is helping to keep a significant amount of would-be carbon scrap tonnage out of the landfill. This is the kind of environmental stewardship that earned the Pueblo site a prestigious “24-Karat Gold Leader” award from the Colorado Environmental Leadership Program.
A new use for carbon dust
When carbon brake disks are machined to final print dimensions, the machining process leaves behind fine, but pure, carbon dust material. The Collins team was looking for a way to repurpose this dust and keep it out of the landfill and identified a global supplier of carbon and steel products that could help.
Thanks to this alliance, the carbon dust is now finding a new life as an ingredient for asphalt, concrete, industrial lubricants, fuel cells and coatings. It’s also showing up in everyday consumer products made from graphene, such as pencils and golf clubs.
Benefits beyond recycling
The Collins team is also looking for ways to cut down its energy and water consumption at the Pueblo plant, including alternatives to the high-temperature reactors needed to manufacture carbon brakes.
“We’re working with local officials to see how we might bring in renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar to make a positive impact on our operations,” said Hayes.
In addition to the carbon brakes success story, the Collins metallic brake structures that are designed in Troy, Ohio, incorporate a ceramic-based coating with protective properties that allow for less wear and longer life, thus reducing the need to manufacture replacements. The coating also reduces the need for paint stripping and recoating at each major aircraft overhaul, cutting down on Volatile Organic Compound, or VOC, emissions.
Learn more about how Collins Aerospace is contributing to a more sustainable aviation industry at CollinsAerospace.com/Sustainability.