Cadmium plating is commonly used in the aviation industry, particularly for the landing gear components of aircraft. The US government spends over 200 million dollars per year on cadmium plating. Using cadmium plating on landing gear provides the steel with exceptional resistance to corrosion. The coating also helps prevent the growth of microorganisms on the surface of the gear. These properties make cadmium plating a reliable choice for critical components such as landing gear, which are subject to severe environmental conditions.
However, as discussed earlier, cadmium plating can have significant environmental impacts. Cadmium is a toxic heavy metal that can pose health risks to workers during the plating process and during the handling and disposal of waste materials. Moreover, cadmium pollution can contaminate water sources, harm aquatic life, and contribute to air pollution, especially if the plating is performed improperly.
Given these concerns, the aviation industry has taken steps to reduce the use of cadmium and promote alternative solutions. For instance, materials engineers have begun exploring alternative alloys that offer comparable corrosion resistance and durability without cadmium. One such example is Questek’s application of Ferrium S53® Steel. Ferrium S53® steel offers comparable or superior corrosion resistance without the need for a separate environmentally detrimental cadmium coating.
Ferrium S53 provides additional benefits over the cadmium-plated incumbent materials. Ferrium S53® steel exhibits high strength and durability, suitable for landing gear applications. It can withstand heavy loads and cyclic loading without compromising structural integrity. Cadmium-plated parts may require regular maintenance, inspection, and potential re-plating. Ferrium S53® steel, with its inherent corrosion resistance, reduces the need for maintenance, resulting in potential long-term cost savings. Lastly, Cadmium plating is subject to strict regulations due to its environmental and health impacts. Ferrium S53® steel helps avoid regulatory hurdles associated with cadmium plating, providing a more straightforward path to compliance.
While cadmium plating remains a prevalent technique for landing gear components, the industry’s increasing focus on environmental sustainability and safety may eventually lead to a shift towards alternative methods. The aviation industry has always prioritized safety and reliability, and with the growing awareness of environmental concerns, it is becoming increasingly clear that these values must extend beyond just the aircraft’s performance. By minimizing the use of cadmium and adopting novel materials custom tailored to demanding applications (such as Ferrium S53), the industry can continue to meet its objectives while also contributing to a safer and healthier environment.