Engineers at General Electric have begun experimenting with an additive manufacturing technique that could be used to repair hard to fix parts.
The technique is named “Cold Spray” and it uses a nozzle to eject metallic powders onto a surface at high velocities. As a surface is exposed to greater amounts of spray and the metal powder accumulates, shaped surfaces begin to rise from the object. Through this method any type of protruded feature can be rebuilt onto a part, regardless of how the part had degraded.
The “Cold Spray” technique was invented in Russia in the mid-1980s and has since been used to repair parts made of soft metals such as copper, magnesium, aluminum and zinc. With GE’s recent revamping of this technique though, such as their addition of nickel and titanium alloys, there is a whole new horizon of possible applications.
According to Anteneh Kebbede, Manager of GE’s Coating and Surface Technologies Lab, “What's particularly exciting about cold spray as an innovative, 3D process is that it affords us the opportunity to restore parts using materials that blend in and mirror the properties of the original part itself. This extends the lifespan of parts by years, or possibly by decades, ultimately providing improved customer value."
If GE can refine its Cold Spray process further, they could easily add value to other areas of their existing business, such as aerospace repair. In fact, the company already sees potential for the technique in the oil and gas industry, where it could be used to coat or repair drilling equipment.
Image and Video Courtesy of GE