FRC East Hosts First US Trials for New Cold Spray Tech

FRC East Hosts First US Trials for New Cold Spray Tech

January 22, 2020

 

From Carteret County News-Times
Staff Report, January 22, 2020

Photo of cold spray technology demonstration at FRC East Cherry Point, NC

Jessica Templeton, left, a Naval Air Systems Command materials engineer at Fleet Readiness Center East aboard Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, and David Stricklin of Compass Systems inspect the finished product following the first U.S. trials of a new cold spray technology application, held in late 2019 at FRC East. (Heather Wilburn photo)

CHERRY POINT —  Fleet Readiness Center East recently hosted the first U.S. trials for a new cold spray technology application and saw promising results, program officials said. If approved, the technology would help reduce turnaround times and decrease costs for repairs that were previously not possible using existing, approved cold spray systems.

Naval Air Systems Command materials engineers with the Advanced Technology Team at FRC East, along with representatives of VRC Metals Systems, completed the first U.S. field demonstration of an on-aircraft structural repair using a mobile, autonomous cold spray metallization system at FRC East in late 2019. According to a release from the maintenance and repair depot, over the course of the two-day trials, the team completed an on-aircraft repair to the windowsill of a V-22 Osprey and also conducted an off-aircraft repair to a surplus H-1 skid tube.

“The system operated better than predicted,” said Frederick Lancaster, lead for the Cold Spray Metallization Integrated Product Team at Naval Air Systems Command. “(It) worked as planned at five sites, in five different climates, at five different times of the year. Once it was programmed, the system worked without human intervention, on aircraft, and worked faster and more precisely than a human.”

The cold spray process bonds metal to metal in a relatively low-heat environment in order to deposit a coating onto a surface, or substrate. Solid metal powders are accelerated through a heated gas and directed toward a metallic substrate; the moving particles impact the surface and embed in the substrate, forming a strong bond.

The repairs completed during the pilot were consistent with those made using a stationary cold spray system, Mr. Lancaster said. Once approved, the new, mobile system will support the on-site repair of aircraft materials and increased mission readiness through rapid turnaround.

“With this program, we’re looking to bring structural repair capabilities closer to the aircraft, so you don’t have to take an aircraft apart to repair it,” said Jessica Templeton, a NAVAIR materials engineer at FRC East. “The end goal is to take the most cost-effective way of making these repairs, and make them available at the lowest level possible.”

The team has targeted parts like aircraft skins – the outer surface covering much of the wings and fuselage – windowsills and areas on the tail as ideal candidates for repair without removal from the aircraft. Being able to repair parts to standard without major disassembly can lead to cost savings that are “pretty tremendous,” Ms. Templeton said. The autonomous aspect of the unit means the work is done by a robotic arm which, after programming, requires minimal input from the workforce.

“Turnaround time is important, too. Once you start routing these parts through the shops, that adds a lot of lead time to your repairs,” she said. “With this technology, we would be able to repair existing parts to standards of airworthiness, rather than waiting for new parts.”

While the pilot testing was not conducted on an operable aircraft, and the repairs made are not yet approved procedures, the trials do give program leadership an idea of the system’s potential future capabilities for on-aircraft repair, Ms. Templeton said.

“It’s definitely where we want to go with the cold spray, and where we see the technology needing to go,” she said. “We’re trying to take this cold spray one step farther and go toward structural repairs.”

The demonstrations took place as an initial evaluation of the program, which is a joint effort between NAVAIR and the Office of the Secretary of Defense’s Foreign Comparative Testing Program. By using the FCT and technology already developed and qualified by the Australian Defence Science and Technology Organisation, NAVAIR was able to shepherd the program to an advanced phase three transition status in less than three years for under $1 million.

That represents a cost avoidance estimated at $6 million over eight years of development, had the project started with the traditional Small Business Innovation Research program, Mr. Lancaster said.

This testing represents the first in a series of demonstrations and assessments that will allow authorities to determine the airworthiness of these repairs, Ms. Templeton said. The next steps will include fatigue testing, to gauge the strength of the materials and the bond; finite element analysis, which predicts how a product reacts to real-world force and physical effects; and other evaluations that must be conducted.