Published: May 15, 2024
Published: May 15, 2024

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Robin Peffer: The Sky Is No Longer the Limit for Electrocoat

Robin Peffer's career in the electrocoat industry has led to multiple patented innovations. Robin has pushed electrocoat beyond the confines of the industrial and automotive industries and skyrocketed them into the aerospace sector, influencing the way airplanes worldwide are painted. Let's hear from Robin, our product director for Aerospace Coatings, what it takes to win over an industry with conservative views and infuse them with enthusiasm for innovation.

Three Decades of Electrocoat

For the first two years after college, Robin worked as a plating chemist, an experience she describes as “a great springboard” into the industrial electrocoat group. She then joined PPG in 1996 and has spent the past 28 years of her career in and around the electrocoat (e-coat) technology. Robin polished her skills in the Industrial Coatings business unit at Allison Park Coatings Innovation Center before moving into the Aerospace business unit in 2006.

"I worked on many different projects which allowed me to engage with all the different chemistries available in e-coat. You have cathodic and anodic technology. Within each, there are acrylic and epoxy variants. I had the opportunity to work with all these, including investigating hybrid systems where we combined cathodic and anodic technologies."

Her current role as product director for Aerospace Coatings encompasses both R&D and market management.

Having a technical background enables me to communicate effectively at all levels. The production team may not necessarily be interested in all the intricacies of the chemistry. What they want to know is, 'Hey, my temperature is too low and my parts aren't curing. How do I fix it?'


Taking Innovation to the Sky

Robin joined the aerospace team in 2006, when the e-coat technology had just been created. Fired up to drive innovations, the team had to create an entire education plan from scratch, since the technology was something completely new for aerospace applications.

"The applicators already know what works. They want to keep using it because they know that it works. We had to carefully educate them on how our new methods could help improve their productivity and the level of performance."

The new product Robin and her team created was AEROCRON™ Electrocoat Primer, which came with an automated application process that would allow for significant time and space savings during painting.

The components to be painted are racked up in a much smaller space and yet get coated perfectly. One person can operate the whole platform.

The Aerocron primer is applied by dipping the parts into the paint and using electrical current to make the paint adhere to the parts rather than spraying them, which was formerly the norm in the aerospace industry. The efficient application process and the uniform coating on complex shaped parts leads to significant weight savings on the aircraft, a point Robin highlights as very important.

Robin’s team had to comply with strict aerospace industry product specifications for Aerocron, which were very different compared to the specifications for the traditional spray method of paint application. Her team engaged directly with customers to explain the new paint application process and how they needed to modify their specifications to adhere to industry standards.

Our company stays engaged with the customer at all levels of implementation. The team is involved from the very beginning, including the initial evaluation and qualification, during implementation with line design requirements, tank fills and system start up, and post-fill with operational training and system maintenance.

"We have a great customer support and tech services team in place. They visit our customers who have the Aerocron tanks in order to train them, review sample analyses, assess the lines and help if there are any problems."

U.S. Coast Guard: The Aerocron Demo

With the help of government funds, use of electrocoat has made its way into multiple segments, such as commercial, general aviation, and even the military. The first demonstration program featuring the Aerocron primer and its application system was realized thanks to the Environmental Security Technology Certification Program (ESTCP).

The installation of the first commercial Aerocron e-coat system at the U.S. Coast Guard Aviation Logistics Center in Elizabeth City was a significant milestone.

We installed it in 2014, and they're still using it today! They were very open during the testing, design and implementation phases of the technology. The thorough education on how Aerocron works enabled them to become self-sufficient in its use. However, we still provide support, even 10 years later, and will continue to do so as long as they use the system.

Speeding to a Special Award

Robin believes that new technologies in e-coat will propel the aerospace industry forward - literally, as speed is crucial. It is challenging to keep up with the need to increase production rate, and e-coat is precisely equipped to handle this challenge.

"You can process more parts on a rack than if someone were standing there, spraying them manually, and it's also ready in a shorter period of time. A thermally cured part can be placed on an aircraft within a couple of hours. If you spray the paint, it can take up to 14 days to achieve full properties."

Today, we are the leader in aerospace e-coating technology. Being part of opening up a whole new field for electrocoat is among the most rewarding aspects of Robin's work.

In early 2024, Robin was recognized with the prestigious George E.F. Brewer Award, which celebrates individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the field of electrocoating. Robin highlights that historically, only a handful of women have won this award. Being among these few is amazing and “knowing that my contributions to the industry are recognized at this level is quite humbling.”


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