Cold Spray Technology
Naval Air Systems Command
Naval Air Station North Island, CA
In the realm of naval aviation maintenance, repair, and overhaul, a transformative technology is taking flight. At the heart of this revolution is Fleet Readiness Center Southwest (FRCSW), where a team of dedicated engineers is pioneering the use of cold spray technology. This innovative approach is not only enhancing the repair capability for aging aircraft but also paving the way for substantial cost savings, an increase in readiness, and environmental benefits. Luc Doan, a Senior Materials Engineer with nearly three decades at FRCSW, alongside fellow F/A-18 Senior Engineer Conrad Macy, and Materials Engineers Stoney Middleton and Matthew Chu, spearheaded this initiative.
Cold spray, a subset of thermal spray technologies, stands out for its unique method of depositing metallic powder. Unlike other thermal techniques that rely on heating the powder to its melting point, cold spray propels the metal powder at high velocities, creating a solid-state process without the need for melting. This technique creates a metallurgical bond with the substrate, resulting in a robust and durable repair. What distinguishes FRCSW in this field is not just the technology itself but also the scale and sophistication of its implementation. The Materials Engineering Department boasts an array of cold spray and ancillary equipment, including multiple low-pressure cold spray systems manufactured by Centerline and Inovati as well as a high-pressure VRC cold spray system, which has just been added to FRCSW’ repair toolbox.
These systems are capable of both hand-held and robotic spray operations. Hand-held spraying accounts for over half of their repairs. This capability has led to over 35 approved repairs and the restoration of 400 parts, a testament to the technology's growing significance in maintaining and extending the life of naval aircraft. None of the cold spray repaired parts have returned to the depot because the repair failed in service, so we know the technology is working.
Financially, the impact of cold spray at FRCSW is profound. With over 35 approved repairs across various platforms like the F/A-18A-F, EA-18G, MV-22, E-2C/D, C-2A, AH/UH-1, and CH-53, the technology has led to significant cost savings and avoidance. These repairs range from individual components to on-aircraft repairs. For instance, the repair of the F/A-18 APG-73 Radar Rack Aft Bulkheads alone saved millions of dollars. To date, FRCSW has repaired 51 Aft Bulkheads with another six Aft Bulkheads scheduled to be repaired in 2024. A stark contrast to the high costs and long lead times associated with procuring new parts.
Additionally, the F/A-18 AMAD gearbox and associated repairs have saved multiple millions of dollars and prevented fleet supply shortfalls because of lengthy lead times for new gearbox castings. Another example is the on-aircraft repairs that were performed in the last 10 months. The cold spray technology also repaired one CH-53 for corrosion damage, four E-2Ds for gouge damage, and five UH-1Ys for corrosion damage at Camp Pendleton.
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