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Glass v. Plastic: A Two-Part Study of Abrasion in Transparent Lens Materials for Exterior Aircraft Lighting Systems

For aircraft manufacturers and operators, LED technology promises to keep planes operating longer with reduced maintenance costs and lower power consumption. As the need to frequently replace burned-out incandescent bulbs is eliminated, the importance of constructing a reliable exterior lighting system capable of maintaining safe levels of light output despite continual exposure to particulate abrasion, thermal, and chemical stresses is crucial for operators to realize the benefits of LED technology.

To inform and aid lighting engineers, operators, aircraft manufacturers, and regulators in their evaluation and design processes, Kopp has published a new white paper that investigates the abrasion resistance of transparent materials used in exterior jet aircraft lighting applications. The White Paper details Kopp's comprehensive two-part abrasion study, as follows:

Part One: The Taber Abrasion test method was used to compare how these materials withstand abrasion introduced through routine handling and cleaning of lenses.

Part Two: Independent, third-party validated high-velocity particulate impact testing was performed at the US Air Force Particle Erosion Test Facility at the University of Dayton Research Institute (UDRI). The particle erosion test apparatus, or “dust-rig,” that was used was designed to simulate erosion effects on aircraft surfaces subjected in flight to dust-laden environments.

The study compared transparent materials used in exterior jet aircraft lighting applications, including:

  • Heat-strengthened Borosilicate Glass (Kopp 9000)

  • Hard-coated Polycarbonate (Makrolon AR)

  • Aviation grade acrylic (Plexiglas II UVA)

If you want to learn how to design and specify exterior aircraft lighting lenses that reduce maintenance and operating costs over the life of the aircraft, download this free White Paper.