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New EoL Routes of Al-Li Aircraft Integral LBW and FSW Welded Panels including New Cr-Free Coatings

The end of fife (EoL) of new aircraft panels made of Al-Li alloys in which the stringers and skin were joined, either by laser beam welding (LBW) or by friction stir welding (FSW), was investigated at the lab scale. Different cutting strategies, ranging from cutting only for size reduction to full separation of all materials, including the removal of the welded seam, were defined, with the objective of recycling the maximum amount of panel scrap back into high-quality aircraft Al-Li alloys. Those welded aerostructures were coated with two novel Cr-free coating systems. The effect of the coatings on the recyclability of the panels and the need to eliminate the primer and topcoats were researched. Fading/enrichment of the alloying elements during recycling was determined. The chemical compatibility of the recycled alloys with four commercial Al-Li alloys was examined. The EoL route that maximized closed-loop recycling and the conservation of the valuable alloying elements was identified. Nine out of the ten configurations were found to be compatible with joint recycling. Only the LBW structure with ER4047 filler wire required sorting into scrap fractions and removing the weld seam. Decoating by corundum blasting followed by cutting before remelting is the recommended EoL process.


Ana Isabel Fernández-Calvo (AZTERLAN), Clara Delgado (AZTERLAN), Philippe Dufour (SONACA SA), Egoitz Aldanondo (LORTEK), Mario Díaz (CIDETEC), María Belén García-Blanco (CIDETEC)


end of life; metal recycling; aluminum–lithium alloys; light metallic alloys; aircraft fuselage; material sorting; decoating


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