CSAT 2021 Spotlights Point-of-Need Technologies

Cold spray technology is an innovative, flexible, and efficient high-velocity additive-manufacturing method that accelerates metal powders or nonmetallic particles to form a coating or freestanding structure. The process can be used for dimensional restoration and repair and has become popular with the DOD because it allows maintainers to make many repairs right at the point of need.

The purpose of the annual Cold Spray Action Team (CSAT) event is to bring together people from all facets of the cold spray (CS) sector, from R&D groups, to certifying CS processes, to CS OEMs and powder manufacturers.

Recently, the CSAT 2021 conference held in Leominster, MA, chose “point-of-need” as their theme and attracted over 600 in-person and virtual attendees. Employing the hybrid model, the event welcomed 13 in-person exhibitors, including industry, academic organizations, and governmental agencies, who displayed their capabilities on site. Another 14 exhibitors chose the virtual option via Zoom.

“In attendance were research universities, technologists, industry partners—anyone who has a passion for cold spray,” says Debbie Lilu, NCMS vice president for Maintenance & Sustainment, Business Development. “Vic Champagne, Army Research Laboratory, did a fabulous job with the agenda and successfully orchestrated a hybrid event.”

Repair and Technologies Development, Engineering Branch Chief Glen Drebes of the Propulsion Maintenance Group at Tinker Air Force Base reports several positive outcomes from attending CSAT this year. Representing the only organic depot production booth using cold spray in the Air Force, Drebes took a keen interest in learning more about cold spray best practices, innovative uses, and opportunities to network and collaborate on future projects pertaining to aircraft components.

Drebes says he was also very interested in learning more about using cold spray techniques to replace the current nickel and chrome plating process for repairs. Once the cold spray process is certified by the Air Force, it will provide several benefits over chrome and nickel plating, such as lowering the number of production days as well as eliminating exposure to potentially hazardous chemicals.

Drebes and his team from Tinker AFB won the 2019 Maintenance Innovation Challenge for their submission, Fully Organic Repair of Air Force Assets Via Cold Spray. “Winning that award garnered a lot of attention and helped propel the validation process for our cold spray initiatives,” says Drebes.

The enthusiasm that Drebes says he saw at this year’s CSAT encouraged him that cold spray technology is gaining wider acceptance, which could be instrumental in extending the lifespan of legacy air platforms.

Other comments heard from attendees at the event were:

“Wonderful breadth of knowledge all in one location.”

“Excellent quality and diversity of subject content by core-competent technology experts in a collegial manner. Just a great conference to attend.”

Cold Spray for Maritime Usage Group Meets

Attending CSAT was an appropriate precursor to the CTMA initiative, Advancing Additive Repair Technology and Cold Spray for Sustainment of Maritime Assets Phase II kickoff meeting. It took place at initiative partner Northeastern University’s new George J. Kostas Research Institute for Homeland Security in Burlington, MA. This institute specializes in advancing in-theater cold spray parts repair, a technology that could enhance the Navy’s ship availability.

The CTMA initiative supports advancements in the usability, ergonomics, and functionality of cold spray technology. The lab work being conducted at the Kostas Research Institute incorporates both cold spray processes and materials as part of its mission to collaborate with industry, government, and academia.

“The facility, equipment, and expertise at the Kostas Research Institute at Northeastern University was very impressive,” says NCMS Project Manager Phil Callihan. “Project partner, Solvus Global, also provided us a tour of their new manufacturing facility with cutting-edge cold spray powder and packaging equipment.”

The CTMA initiative supports the Navy’s goal of creating pop-up cells of cold spray repair shops that will provide maintainers with the training, and equipment they need to facilitate point-of-demand maintenance work.