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Let It Shine

PPG Innovation Lights the Way for Glow-in-the-Dark Tools

Most home do-it-yourselfers know the frustration of working in tight quarters – an attic crawl space, perhaps – and dropping a tool into the darkness below. Although aggravating, it’s typically not a big deal. Get a new tool and consider the lost one a reminder to keep a firmer grip.

Glow in the dark tools from PPG AerospaceBut what if you were working inside an aircraft fuel tank, applying sealant to a joint or fastener? A dropped tool could become a much bigger problem. If not found, it could become what the aerospace industry calls foreign object debris, or FOD. Rattling around inside an aircraft, unsecured FOD could jam or clog critical systems. Preventing FOD by making dropped tools easier to find – and forgotten ones harder to miss – is the purpose of a new line of glow-in-the-dark (GID) tools manufactured by PPG Aerospace’s SEMCO™ Packaging & Application Systems. A new line of Semco glow-in-the-dark tools is making it easier to spot dropped or forgotten tools inside aircraft.

Developed at the request of a major aircraft manufacturer, the new Semco GID line includes spatulas, scrapers and nozzles used during the application of sealants, such as PPG’s PRC™ and PRO-SEAL™ products, according to Dillon Desai, global market development manager for packaging, PPG Aerospace.

“FOD is a major concern for all of our aerospace customers,” Desai said. “The new GID tools greatly reduce the risk that the tools used in the sealant application process will be lost or left behind. We’re seeing strong interest across the industry, in addition to the manufacturer who originally asked for the product.”

The idea sounds simple on the surface, but developing the right technology and product “required a robust product development process as well as team effort,” he said. An idea-to-launch process methodically moved the GID product through the development cycle, including evaluations for marketing, technical and financial feasibility. “We ultimately chose a polymer composition approach incorporating glow-in-the-dark materials that maximize fluorescent performance,” Desai said, “while maintaining the ergonomic design of the tools.”

GID materials work by absorbing light from the environment and then emitting the light energy gradually over time. The longer a GID object retains its luminescence, the longer you have to find it if you drop it. But even more important to the Semco team was finding a GID material that would absorb light quickly, so that a tool that had already gone dark could be recharged by just a flashlight beam passing over it.

“As with any development project, getting the right product for the intended application involved technical development and back-and-forth with the customer to understand the needs,” said Wei Chen, Semco product development and engineering manager. “In addition to that, we had to consider manufacturing issues and cost factors.”

The GID tools, which are getting excellent reviews from the lead customer, are one of many new Semco products that have either been launched recently or are close to being introduced. The new SEMBEND™ nozzle, for example, allows applicators to precisely bend and adjust the shape of a nozzle to perform a specific task, rather than having to special order a rigid, pre-bent tool.

“We see significant growth potential in this line of business, and we’re pushing hard on the development of new products,” Desai said. “For many years, our products were seen as commodities, but we came to realize the tremendous potential to grow the business through innovation. That’s what we’re doing with the GID tools and many other new products that we’re introducing to the market.”

To learn more about Glow-in-the-Dark-Tools, contact PPG Aerospace.