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News | July 8, 2020

"Cold Spray" Process Versatile, Efficient

By Jim Markle

VIRIN: 200708-N-XZ252-0071

Of all the technologies and machinery used by Fleet Readiness Center Southwest (FRCSW) to repair aircraft components, perhaps none yields more costs and time saving benefits than "Cold Spray" technology.

In use by the command since 2015, Cold Spray is a gun-based supersonic coating application that uses solid metallic powders, ceramics or alloys that are ground to a particle size of less than the diameter of a human hair.

The technology uses pressurized helium or nitrogen to deliver the metallic agent to repair the portion of a component affected by wear or corrosion, restoring it to its original dimension. 

FRCSW primarily uses alloys in its cold spray procedures.

The process is called cold spray because the temperature used in the application is lower than the melting points of the agents it delivers, avoiding any heat-induced influence to the substrate.

A time-saving process, cold spray can apply an alloy coating in less than five minutes, whereas a traditional chrome application takes about 20 hours to apply 20 ml to a part.

Cold spray is automated and features a graphic user interface about the size of computer tablet that controls pressure, temperature and the powder feed rate to the part. Parts may be sprayed continuously or coated in layers.

During use, the equipment generates a data log of parameters that can be used to identify issues in a coating or to repeat a coating later.

FRCSW has used cold spray primarily on the F/A-18 airframe including three aluminum and titanium parts: the aircraft mounted accessory drive (AMAD) housing, the brake carrier housing and the AMAD gear shaft.

In the past three years, more than 10 AMADs have been refurbished alone, saving the Navy over $1.5 million in replacement costs. Before, damage to one part of the AMAD resulted in scrapping the entire unit.

In addition to the F/A-18, cold spray applications have been used on components of other platforms including the CH-53 helicopter, E-2C Hawkeye and the LM2500 engine.


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