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New Robins complex plating shop safer, more efficient

Front, Jim Cunningham, 402nd Commodities Maintenance Support Squadron process engineer, and Harold Livingston, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Advanced Metal Finishing Facility Quality Assurance Examiner, stand in the staging area where aircraft parts will be prepped before being loaded onto an assembly line for ‘wet’ processing. U. S. Air Force photo/Ed Aspera)

Front, Jim Cunningham, 402nd Commodities Maintenance Support Squadron process engineer, and Harold Livingston, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Advanced Metal Finishing Facility Quality Assurance Examiner, stand in the staging area where aircraft parts will be prepped before being loaded onto an assembly line for ‘wet’ processing. U. S. Air Force photo/Ed Aspera)

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- The Advanced Metal Finishing Facility - the newest building in the Warner Robins Air Logistics Complex - will boast a multitude of improved efficiencies and processes once it's up and running later this year.

But, one of the new facility's greatest benefits will be reduced worker exposure to hazardous chemicals due to increased automation during the plating process.

"Bottom line, environmentally it's much cleaner and safer for the workers," said Jim Cunningham, 402nd Commodities Maintenance Support Squadron process engineer.

At nearly 98,000 square feet, the facility will replace the existing plating shop in Bldg. 142, which performs a variety of chemical surface treatments for aircraft parts. The treatments include everything from cleaning and etching, to inorganic finishes such as anodize and electroplated chrome.

Overhead cranes and joists, situated in a staging area between 'wet' and 'dry' process areas, will be part of the automated process. Basically that means the processes occurring in all nine of the tank lines will be controlled remotely - keeping workers from having to physically immerse parts into individual tanks. "We're going from a manual plating shop to a predominantly automated plating shop," he said.

Chemicals will not only be remotely added to tanks, but a new air ventilation system, along with barriers, will be in place between each assembly line to protect workers from cross-exposure of fumes from nearby tanks.

An in-house waste water treatment plant will also be located on the basement level to collect and treat waste fluids.

Waste water will be reduced from 50 to 90 percent by recycling rinse water and process steam and reducing evaporation as part of the dedicated plant's efforts.

The new facility will also use advanced spill containment coatings and redundant protection layers to protect soil and groundwater.

The unique construction project, which has been in the works the last several years, has a total investment of $67 million, and includes a two-year transition plan from shutting down the old plant in Bldg. 142 to operating new equipment in what will become Bldg. 20128.

"We will have a period of time where we're actually running both shops," said Cunningham. "The idea is we'll set a line up in the new facility, get it running reliably, and once the line is established, we'll shut down the equivalent processes in the old facility."

There is still much work to be done in the new building. Its assembly lines for metals treatment include a total of 153 small and large tanks.

The larger tanks are sized to process much larger C-5 and C-17 parts, and now have a capacity of up to 7,600 gallons.

That is an increase from the maximum 1,800 gallon tanks housed in the old facility.