Tito Visi, president of V&N Advanced Automation Systems, right, discusses use of the recently installed computer-controlled cadmium plating furnace to materials engineer Howard Whang, center, and equipment engineer William Castillo in the FRCSW plating shop in Building 472. The new plating furnace offers a higher component capacity than its predecessor and can complete the cadmium coating process in approximately half the time.

FRCSW Fires Up New Cadmium Plating Furnace

To help ensure its cadmium-plated aircraft parts are manufactured under the highest possible standards, Fleet Readiness Center Southwest (FRCSW) replaced its 45-year-old cadmium plating furnace with a new computer-aided design (CAD) model.

The new furnace, which arrived in the plating shop in Building 472 on Dec. 5, can accommodate parts as small as bushings to components of up to 5 feet in length by approximately 2 ½ feet in width.

Unlike its predecessor, the new furnace has two holding racks: one stationary, and the other with an option of motion that ensures a more even coating process.

“Not only does this new one have a higher component capacity, but it can complete the coating process in approximately 50 percent less time,” said Martha Hoffman, Capital Investment Program (CIP) project manager. “The old furnace required the operator to remove and turn the components as part of the coating process, which can add up to an additional 30 minutes to the overall procedure.”

FRCSW artisans underwent a five-day operator training seminar by Tito Visi, president of V&N Advanced Automation Systems, manufacturer of the furnace.

Training included the use of the unit’s 500-gigabyte computer/control panel to input production commands and print reports. The CAD system is user-friendly, operating through common programs like Microsoft Word™ and Excel™.

A successful cadmium coating procedure is dependent upon a variety of requirements, Visi noted.

“The fewer molecules of air you have in the chamber, the better coating you are going to have. So for this, we have a mechanical pump and a booster pump which brings the atmosphere to a regulated air pump (RAP) vacuum,” he said.

“We bring the pressure down and when we hit the base pressure needed for the coating, we are able to evaporate the material (cadmium) to stick to the part. That takes around 20 minutes. Then, argon is introduced to cool down the part which eliminates any contamination. We don’t use oxygen or air, because the part could oxidize.”

When complete, the part is removed and moves on through the plating process.

Costing approximately $990,000, the new furnace will not only be used to coat F/A-18 Hornet and E/2-C/2 aircraft parts, but LM2500 engine parts, as well.