A process to repair and refurbish metal using metal powder sprayed through a nozzle has been developed at the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology and is being deployed for use across the U.S. military and in commercial applications, reports South Dakota Public Radio.
The process, in which the particles weld themselves together, uses a heated, expanded gas and emits no toxic fumes, said Christian Widener, research director for the project. The process has been used for several years to repair hydraulic lines and skin panels on B-1 bombers at Ellsworth Air Force Base.
The cold spray technology has allowed parts to be repaired at a fraction of the traditional cost and in much less time. This allows expensive equipment to continue to be used, whereas needed repairs have caused entire pieces of equipment to be scrapped.
Now, plans are to deploy the proven technology across the U.S. military, reports the U.S. Army. SDSM&T partners with the U.S. Army Research Laboratory in developing cold spray technology and other technologies.
A key innovation has been the hand-held nozzles used to apply the metal powder.
"It only takes up a small three-foot by five-foot area and is on wheels for easy mobility for use in production, repair facilities or in the field. It can be operated by hand or by a robot, which is another unique feature that makes it the system of choice for the military," said Victor Champagne from the Army Research Lab's Weapons and Materials Research Directorate.
In addition to the pending widespread military use, the technology is available commercially from VRC Metal Systems in Rapid City, through a partnership with SDSM&T and the Army. The company has 15 employees and is expected to grow, said Widener.