What’s behind the idea of diamond coating for private jets? Is it pure aesthetics, or are there practical benefits? And what does the future hold for Jean Boulle Luxury in private aviation? Mike Angenent, director, Jean Boulle Luxury shares with Matt Harris…
Mike Angenent was already active in the diamond industry sourcing unique diamonds for high-end customers when he received a request from the Jean Boulle Group to participate in something a little different.
The Jean Boulle Group, through its principal Jean-Raymond Boulle, is the largest shareholder of Diamond Fields Resources Inc (DFR), with diamond mining activities in Namibia, where production consists of small but high-quality sea diamonds.
At the time, The Jean Boulle Group, through its subsidiary Jean Boulle Luxury, wanted to explore new markets for part of this special production. Other than selling the diamonds for further cutting and polishing, the company explored producing a diamond coating for automobiles.
Through an independent auctioneer, Jean Boulle Luxury acquired 1,000 special stones from DFR, which it processed and delivered to a specialist team at Rolls-Royce and together they created the diamond coating which was applied to a truly unique Ghost Elegance, which Rolls-Royce exhibited at the Geneva International Motor Show.
“Following success in the automotive industry we wanted to make our diamond coating available for the yachting and aerospace markets too,” Angenent recalls. “That’s when we started our cooperation with AkzoNobel to get the appropriate certifications and OEM approvals.”
The 490ft mining vessel Ya Toivo, operated by IMDH Group of companies, recently deployed to extract diamonds from the seabed within Namibian ML 111 Concession of Diamond Fields Resources Inc.
Jean Boulle Luxury processes some of the diamonds into small crystals that AkzoNobel incorporates into its Alumgrip 4450 clear top coat that can be applied to business jets.
The Challenge of Making Jets Shine
Anyone who’s been around aviation for any length of time will be aware that it’s far less straightforward to get a product certified on a business jet – and that proved to be the case for Jean Boulle Luxury as it sought having its Sun King Diamond Coating product certified. “Having a partner with substantial experience in the industry certainly helped,” Angenent explains.
“We wanted to make sure that we had a globally compliant product where someone can have their aircraft painted in Europe with a system that is compatible in the US (and vice-versa).
“Such regulatory considerations are particularly challenging for the aerospace market but with AkzoNobel, we have a partner that can adapt to the necessary standards,” he reflects.
Practically this means that Jean Boulle Luxury sends its diamond product to AkzoNobel’s US facility in Waukegan where they mix it into their Alumigrip 4450 clear top coat while making sure that there is no loss of performance.
“The different OEMs have their own standards and protocols but through Akzo, companies such as Gulfstream, Embraer, Textron, Honda, Boeing, Bombardier and others either already have the Alumigrip product range available as their house paint, can use it on specification or are working towards the qualification,” Angenent adds.
“This gives us plenty of opportunity in the private and business jet markets – and aftermarket customers can, of course, use what they want.”
The Practicalities of Diamond-Coating Jets
As glittering as the idea of applying diamond coating to a jet may be, are there limits to the paint/colour schemes that can be applied to an aircraft that operators need to be aware of – or is the sky the limit?
“Theoretically an operator can paint their aircraft in any color scheme they desire,” Angenent says. “But there are practical reasons why some choices are less advisable.
“Heat is one thing that comes to mind. White is a common color on aircraft for good reason. It’s the best color to deflect heat. Adding a top grade clearcoat application will take care of extra UVR protection.”
And where heat is concerned Angenent reveals one of the possible advantage Sun King Diamond Coating may offer. “There might be a heat dissipation effect,” he offers.
“The customer of the Bombardier Global Express that we painted with Satys in The Netherlands indicated a significant decrease in cabin temperature and less use of the air conditioning.
“This may be due to the diamond crystals as diamonds are highly effective heat conductors. The thermal conductivity of natural diamond is measured to be about five times more than silver, the most thermally conductive metal,” he elaborates. “We're currently conducting tests with research institute TNO in the Netherlands to confirm the hypothesis.”
Exposed to extreme temperature and air pressure changes, an aircraft’s paint scheme will undergo substantial stress during its lifetime. Ultimately, operators who are prepared to spend a little extra on their paint materials and labor will reduce their future mandatory maintenance tasks, Angenent argues.
“As a company, we look favourably towards these kinds of necessities as your future maintenance should not stand in the way of your present design choices.
He suggests looking for three things when choosing the facility that will do your next aircraft paint upgrade. “You should look for certification (i.e. facility standards), experience and references. Personally, I think the references are crucial.”
And you should allow plenty of time to plan the project, and allow for the appropriate time for the aircraft to be in the maintenance shop. “Ultimately how long you need to allow for your airplane to be grounded will depend on the type/size of the aircraft and the refurbishment needed,” he continues. “For the Bombardier Global Express that was completely repainted, the job took less than four weeks.”
A Glittering Future in Private Aviation?
Having introduced a highly unique paint option for business jets, are there any plans from Jean Boulle Luxury to expand in the gemstone aircraft coating market, perhaps incorporating rubies or sapphires?
“Other gems completely lose their color and lustre and thus are not suitable for a similar kind of application,” Angenent explains. “With diamonds, and only diamonds, this works even on the extremely small crystal sizes we infuse in the top coat.
“There’s an old, Indian creation myth that tells the story of the god of gemstones' desire to create a new gem. For this, he took all the colored gemstones at his disposal, crushed them and mixed them together to create the diamond.
“This myth serves as a metaphor for what we scientifically call the multichromatic effect of diamond crystals, the fact that you can see all the colors of the rainbow when the diamond catches the light at the right angle,” Angenent concludes.
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