'Repairs in the shadow': US Navy fields cold spray tech to benefit warfighters
A cold spray metallization technology that was first tested at Fleet Readiness Center East (FRCE) is currently being fielded by the U.S. Navy.
The new technology will help cut down on turnaround times for aircraft maintenance as well as expenses, according to a press release by the U.S. Navy on Friday.
"With this mobile, autonomous cold spray system, we'll be bringing repair capabilities closer to the aircraft," explained Jessica Templeton, the Air Vehicle and Materials Engineering lead with the Naval Air Systems Command Fleet Support Team's Advanced Technology and Innovation Team at FRCE.
"We will be able to make repairs in the shadow of the aircraft that were previously not possible using existing, approved cold spray systems. And there's flexibility in that the system can be programmed to run autonomously or be used in-hand by qualified artisans."
The technology is being fielded on the H-1 line at the depot's detachment on board Marine Corps Air Station New River after years of rigorous testing and evaluation.
How does the cold spray technology work?
In order to deposit a coating onto a surface or substrate, the cold spray technique joins metal to metal in a setting with relatively little heat.
A metallic substrate is exposed to solid metal powders that have been accelerated through a heated gas; the moving particles strike the surface and embed on the substrate, creating a solid bond.
By applying a lasting metallic alloy coating to surfaces, cold spray is utilized in aviation applications to repair aircraft components like shafts, gearboxes, and skid tubes.
In some situations, this coating can fill abrasions or gouges, while in others, it might serve as protective shielding.
According to Templeton, the Navy currently uses a majority of booth-based cold spray systems, which has size restrictions.
Due to the finite size restrictions on the components that can be treated in the booths, it is frequently necessary to remove aircraft parts before spraying them, or the components' size prevents them from being sprayed at all.
These size restrictions are lessened by the movable nature of this technology, which also makes it possible to do on-aircraft repairs in regions without enduring cold spray booths, noted the U.S. Navy press release.
In order to turn the dream of a mobile, self-contained cold spray system for aircraft maintainers at the depot level into a reality, Templeton and her group have been working with the Naval Aviation Enterprise Cold Spray Integrated Products Team for years.
"It takes a lot of time, a lot of effort, and a lot of supporters within NAVAIR; however, it is all worth it when we implement a technology that will ultimately benefit our warfighters," said Templeton.