REACH: first zinc-nickel plated part
Cadmium is one of the substances targeted by the European REACH directive focusing on recording, assessing and authorizing chemical products. Since 2009, Safran has been working to substitute these substances. The overall aim of the project is to find new processes to replace those which fall within the REACH scope, without having an adverse effect on product performance. With a view to finding a replacement solution for cadmium, used mainly to stop landing gear, wheel and brake parts from corroding, R&T teams at Safran Landing Systems focused their efforts on the alkaline zinc-nickel process. "We've been working on this process for almost six years, explains Fabien Pestel, REACH Project Manager. The completion of this first part plated without cadmium is a real technical feat. We needed to ensure that the zinc-nickel plating process provided the same level of performance as cadmium plating. We also had to factor in aspects related to the product life cycle, especially landing gear repairs. This meant we worked alongside teams tasked with maintenance and repairs."
Customers who need no convincing
While the zinc-nickel process was validated by the work of R&T teams, its implementation also needed to win over customers. "We've spent two years telling our customers about the benefits and reliability of our process, adds Eric Felemez, Head of Program Coordination. The zinc-nickel process is already widely used in other sectors, such as the automotive sector, which means it is backed by the industry. Be that as it may, the conditions in which our equipment is used are quite specific, and the performance of our products must not be affected, regardless of the process used. Our customers have faith in the use of zinc-nickel plating but they are still demanding as regards authorizing its introduction. Lastly, Dassault Aviation placed their trust in us by allowing the process to be used for the Falcon 8X's front landing gear. Other customers, such as Sukhoï, Embraer and Airbus Defense & Space for the A400M, also authorized the use of zinc-nickel plating. "
Everyone on board
Production centers and subcontractors are also involved in the project: A bold investment and rollout plan spanning several years is in place to ensure our ability to produce parts using the new process, explains Eric Felemez. Qualifications are underway and will continue over the coming months and years."
By 2020, cadmium should no longer be used in plating processes for parts produced by Safran. Efforts will also focus on many other substances affected by the regulation.