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The benefits of CO2 cooling in the aerospace industry

Within the aerospace industry, the use of low weight Carbon Fiber Reinforced Plastic (CFRP) and high strength Titanium (Ti) together creates a flexible, durable “stackup”, perfect for components like fuselage, wing skins, door panels, and more. There’s an issue, though, that operators find themselves running into over and over again: Heat.

CFRP and Ti stackups require dry drilling through the Carbon layer and a coolant for drilling through the Titanium. Traditional coolants can’t be used, however, as they contaminate the material.

The answer, then, as Atlas Copco has discovered, is the use of our Advanced Drilling Unit PFD 1100 (and the PFD 1500) and CO2 in the place of a traditional coolant, injected through the spindles. On top of eliminating the risk of heat damage, operators are able to dry drill through the CFRP layer. Both layers of composite materials are completely protected when CO2 is used as a coolant through PFD spindles.

PFD1100 with PVC hose application image

The benefits

Increased drill speed

Aerospace Engineers within Atlas Copco have discovered, through experimentation and heavy research, that they are able to drill through CFRP-Ti stackups up to 3x faster using CO2 as a coolant. Without CO2 cooling, operators have to drill through both layers dry, at a slow speed, to prevent heat damage.

Using CO2 as a coolant, operators can reach Carbon speed without the risk of overheating, as the mixture of solid and gaseous CO2 absorbs the heat generated by the drill. 

Improved drill bit life

Because the risk of heat damage is virtually eliminated, drill bits within aerospace drills such as the PFD 1100 and the PFD 1500 last much longer. According to Doyle Phillips, a Drilling Applications Engineer here at Atlas Copco, using CO2 as a coolant has allowed him to drill roughly 100 holes using one drill bit, compared to approximately 50 holes to one drill bit without CO2.

With an increased tool life, operators can work harder, longer, and without the worry of heat eating up their drill bits, as they drill through both composite layers.

Atlas Copco PFD1100 positive feed drill application image

No clean up or contamination

The use of CO2 as a coolant puts an end to the clean-up process. There’s no liquid coolant to dispose of, as the CO2 coolant is injected through the spindles and exits the tool as dry ice in the form of a unique solid-liquid-gas sprayed directly into the zone in which cooling is required. It’s a dry process.

Why use Atlas Copco Advanced Drilling Units?

It’s becoming clear to the aerospace industry the benefits of CO2 as a CFRP-Ti stackup coolant. Atlas Copco is the world-leading provider of sustainable productivity solutions and has always been one step ahead of the curve. Using our Advanced Drilling Units PFD 1100 & 1500, we’ve been dry drilling with CO2 for a while, increasing the speed at which we drill and the life of our tools. There’s no clean up, and the process is environmentally friendly.

Are you interested in learning more about aerospace drilling, Atlas Copco PFD Advanced Drilling Units, or CO2 cooling? 

Contact Atlas Copco to talk to an aerospace expert today.