WR-ALC takes paint training virtually

  • Published
  • By Joseph Mather
  • Robins Public Affairs

Team Robins has a new tool to help aircraft painters to become more proficient.

The Warner Robins Air Logistics Complex at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, has partnered with F3 Solutions to develop a virtual reality paint simulator for training painters in the proper techniques of painting large and small aircraft.

“We have developed a paint training simulator to enhance our current workforce to help them to develop more consistent skills,” said Todd Lavender, 558th Aircraft Maintenance Support Squadron process engineer and corrosion control process manager. “Hopefully, this will make them better painters or help us to identify when they are having a problem with any part of the paint process so they can address that while they are painting an aircraft rather than have them rework that area the next day because of paint defects.”

Lavender said the previous paint simulator was not efficient in the training of aircraft painters.

“It wasn’t very realistic,” he said. “This didn’t allow the painters to score well because it didn’t allow them to paint or to practice like they normally paint.”

With the use of the old paint simulator, Lavender’s team noticed paint defects and felt the need for a new enhanced training tool for the training group.

“We submitted a topic, which was to develop a virtual reality paint training simulator,” said Lavender. “The contract part was initiated through a small business innovative research project with the WR-ALC’s engineering group.”

F3 solutions was awarded the contract and brought in Carrol Lastinger, chief scientist and former Air Force flight instructor to build the simulator.

“We used previous existing scans and took an immense amount of reference photos. The geometry was built then from the photos those scans,” said Lastinger.

Lastinger said they wanted the VR paint training simulator to be as realistic as possible.

“The intent is to be able to put a real paint gun in my hands,” he said. “Then, stand in an environment that looks as real as possible with an aircraft that looks as real as possible. Everything exists inside of that world, and that’s what this simulator is supposed to provide.”

The simulator will help cross train personnel, said Lavender.

“This system will give them the opportunity to train fairly quickly on a mock-up of the aircraft be needed to be painted,” he said. “So, if I am coming from the F-15 Paint Shop and I am needed to help paint a C-5 aircraft, I can train for a little bit on the C-5 in a virtual scenario, and hopefully, I can do a little bit better.”

The old simulator allowed one person to train at time and the new system will allow up to 16 users to train at one time, said Jonathan Bono, 558th AMXS process engineer.

“For reference, when we say 16 painters, there are 16 zones on a C-5 aircraft, and each of the 16 painters are assigned a zone to paint by the paint supervisor,” he said, “Everyone has their station. You can literally say to a painter to go paint the nose of a C-5 aircraft and that is a zone they can practice on to become proficient.”

Lavender said he is pleased with the outcome.

“The bottom line is the VR paint training simulator will reduce flow days and will be available 24 hours a day for training,” he said. “Anytime we can reduce flow days and improve the process that gives additional capabilities or additional capacity to take on new workloads, it opens us up to bring new work for the base, which is good.”