Aerospace Manufacturers Turn to Non-Hazardous PVD Coatings as Regulations Tighten on Toxic Hard Chrome Plating

Airframe manufacturers such as Airbus are expanding the use of PVD coating to broader applications, including copper bearings and bushings in landing gear assemblies.

(Image courtesy: OC Oerlikon)

The search for a suitable replacement to hard chrome plating on aerospace components has been a key supply chain priority for aircraft manufacturers. This is because of the documented health risks to workers and the impact on the environment from exposure to hexavalent chromium, a carcinogen that occurs during the chrome plating process and the most toxic form of chromium.

“It has been a big task for the aerospace industry to replace hard chrome because it isn’t as easy to find an exact replacement – every alternative will be a bit different,” says Oerlikon Balzers Global Aerospace Segment Manager Toby Middlemiss. “So, manufacturers have had to go back to the drawing board and evaluate why hard chrome was used in the first place, what the application is and what the suitable alternatives are that might work.

One such alternative, physical vapor deposition (PVD) coating, is gaining traction in the aerospace industry – even with large original equipment manufactures like Airbus – because it offers many of the same benefits of hard chrome, but is REACH-conforming and non-hazardous.

William Kucinski  is content editor at SAE International, Aerospace Products Group in Warrendale, Pa. Previously, he worked as a writer at the NASA Safety Center in Cleveland, Ohio and was responsible for writing the agency’s System Failure Case Studies. His interests include literally anything that has to do with space, past and present military aircraft, and propulsion technology.

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