Harford firm uses new technology

HOPING TO OUTSTRIP THE COMPETITION

January 26, 1993|By Ted Shelsby | Ted Shelsby,Staff Writer

HAVRE DE GRACE -- Darren K. Palitti appears from behind a wall dragging a long, dusty hose with a strange-looking nozzle that is equipped with a light. As the hose shoots a plume of white powder into the air, images of the movie "Ghostbusters" come to mind.

But the equipment has nothing with do with ridding homes of the spirits of the dead. Instead, it's the latest technology in the stripping industry.

Mr. Palitti operates Stripping Technologies Inc., and to explain what the young company is about, he displays an aluminum soft drink can and says, "Look at that. We took the paint off without disturbing the surface.

"That's about as thin as you can get."

Amid mounting pressures against the use of chemical agents for stripping paints and other coatings off industrial products, Mr. Palitti has perfected a mechanical process with a variety of applications.

The technology, Mr. Palitti says, was developed by the aerospace industry, but is being applied to other fields by his company and several similar operations scattered about the country.

Mr. Palitti, a 27-year-old former auto repair shop operator, declined to disclose financial details of his company, citing competitive reasons.

"We're just a small company," he said, "and our fear is that someone with deep pockets will jump in" and grab a part of the market.

The technology works like a low-pressure sandblaster, but the secret, he says, is the fine control the operator has over the stripping process, which uses soft compounds such as wheat starch as large as grains of rice or as fine as a powder.

For more coarse materials, plastic pellets are used.

Since opening last March in a blue-gray aluminum building off Route 40, the company has removed the hail-damaged coating from the nose of an F-16 fighter jet. (The trick was removing the top coating -- not much thicker than a business card -- without damaging the epoxy primer beneath it.)

The firm has removed Teflon coating from ultra-thin rocket parts, and stripped paint from recalled Ford pickup trucks without damaging the galvanized coating on the metal.

And Martin Marietta Corp.'s plant in Middle River sought out Stripping Technologies when it found a problem with parts used in building thrust reversers for commercial jetliners.

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