Development in cold spray additive manufacturing

The U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Army Research Laboratory (CCDC-ARL) has awarded a $25 million three year contract to Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) in Massachusetts for the development of metal cold spray additive manufacturing (CSAM), for field use.

The teams goal is to develop alloys that can be used to produce and repair equipment, cutting cost and wait time “Cold spray is a foundational technology with a wide variety of applications, in the military and beyond,” said Danielle Cote, director of WPI’s Center for Materials Processing Data and the principal investigator for the ARL project.

The CSAM process uses pressurized gas to shoot metal powder at supersonic speeds, this spray adheres to the metal upon contact due to the force of impact, so no melting is involved. They’ve been able to put this process into a handheld applicator making it practical in the field.

You can see a small video here.

“If you’re on a mission and need to move quickly to a safer place, and a critical part on your vehicle breaks, you’re stuck unless you can repair it quickly. That’s where cold spray comes in,” added Cote. Continuing “The Army is interested in cold spray 3D printing as a repair technique [as] it’s cheaper to repair a part than to replace it, and you get the equipment back in service faster. The Army’s primary interest is unit readiness.”

Most metal manufacturing methods require the alloys to be melted or heat treated limiting what can be used in the field, but due to CSAMs benefit of not having to heat any metal it can have a broader range of material.

WPI’s process to modify the powder has enable them to manufacture engineering-grade alloys with high strength, toughness, and ductility. This cold spray powder has been used to repair helicopter gearboxes quickly compared to the months or even years it normally takes.

Though the primary focus for this development is repair functions WPI is allowed to look into other applications for CSAM, for instance WPI is looking into having a multi axis robot automate CSAM. “With the work we will be doing with powder development, in robotics, and in a number of other areas, I think we are going to go a long way with cold spray. There really are endless possibilities,” Cote concluded.

Essop, Anas, et al. “U.S. Army Awards Worcester Polytechnic Institute $25 Million to Develop Materials for Cold Spray Additive Manufacturing.” 3D Printing Industry, 11 Sept. 2019, 3dprintingindustry.com/news/u-s-army-awards-worcester-polytechnic-institute-25-million-to-develop-materials-for-cold-spray-additive-manufacturing-161523/.