A graduate at BAE Systems has developed an advanced new masking tape which will significantly reduce time and deliver cost savings of an estimated £45 million over the next two decades.
The clever solution addresses a common problem of adhesive residue being left on aircraft parts when traditional heavy aluminium tape is peeled away, which can be time-consuming, damaging and costly to remove.
The advanced tape was developed by a team including engineering graduate Sam Ashworth, who manufactures parts for the new F-35 Lightning II aircraft at site in Samlesbury, Lancashire.
After extensive testing on a wide range of adhesives and solvents, Sam and his team engineered the new tape made of a light, pre-cut vinyl treated with different chemicals to leave no residue on the surface of parts.
A structures engineer at BAE Systems, Sam Ashworth commented: “It is really exciting to work on an advanced project like this so early in my career.
“There is a real satisfaction in developing a practical solution to a real problem, knowing that the finished product will result in significant time and cost savings for the F-35 Lightning II programme, and potentially other platforms across the sector in the future.”
When put into use, the new tape did not leave a film and was easily peeled away by hand, removing the need to use sharp tools and reducing the shop-floor process for each part from 11 hours to just two-and-a-half hours.
The tape has been so successful that it has already been put to use in the production of the new F-35 Lightning II, saving around £15,000 per aircraft, and the Company is implementing it into the Hawk and Typhoon aircraft production processes.
Commenting on the impact made by Ashworth and his team, Nigel Whitehead – group managing director at BAE Systems – said: “Engineers are at the heart of what we do, and it is particularly satisfying to see what our young engineers are capable of. This is another great example of how enthusiasm and a problem-solving approach can bring real improvements in our approach to complex programmes.”