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5 Advantages of the Cold Spray Coating Process

Repairing or replacing equipment in your organization can be expensive and time-consuming. When a vital piece of equipment craters, the expense of repairs doesn’t stop at the machine. The Cold Spray Coating Process can reduce or eliminate downtime, and provide several other benefits to companies that make and fix products. 

VRC Metal Systems​ partners with you to deliver customized cold spray coating process solutions to keep your operation running smoothly and reliably.  

Contact us today to discuss your needs and find out how cold spray technology can be a top asset in your company. 

Recent but reliable 

The cold spray coating process was first discovered in the mid-1980s at the Russian Academy of Sciences, but it wasn’t until the late-1990s that it was first patented in the U.S. and began to pique the interest of national labs, aerospace companies and the Department of Defense.  Now, after more than two decades of research and development, cold spray is solving real-world problems most people never dreamed would be possible.

The cold spray coating process combines coating particles with high-pressure gas and accelerates them to supersonic speeds through a nozzle and onto a surface. The coating particles bond to the desired surface without the chemical and molecular changes that accompany other high-temperature spray applications. 

In short, the cold spray coating process presents several advantages for equipment repair. With cold spray technology, you can prolong equipment life, reduce downtime, save money on new equipment purchases, and reduce labor costs attached to equipment repair. 

Airplane mechanics checking jet engine if civil aircraft

 A detailed look at how to use the cold spray coating process to your advantage 

Unlike high-temp bonding applications, the cold spray coating process does not remarkably change the base materials that are coated. During the coating process, all materials remain in a solid-state, as opposed to the physical changes that can occur with high heat, like melting and phase transformation. 

As a result, the sprayed metal particles experience reduced oxidation, and surface oxides are literally blasted away by the impacting particles, which assists the bonding process. Further, the bonded section does not shrink after the application from solidification, as materials do during other high-temp thermal spray and weld coating processes. 

Because of the extremely high pressure applied to the spray coating and the velocity they achieve upon exiting the supersonic nozzle, the sprayed particles bond as if they were  Play-Doh thrown at the substrate surface.  

Think of the cold spray coating process like tiny particles of sprayed coating essentially “hugging” tightly the particles on the substrate surface. A molecular embrace like the one described is difficult to break. It’s essentially a mixture of metallurgical and mechanical bonding, that is so good, the coating is often indistinguishable from the substrate. 

Cold spray particles exit the “gun” in a narrow “beam.” This precision affords greater accuracy in the coating application and offers more coating thickness options and shape control than thermal spray methods. 

The best materials for spray coating and substrates 

 Coatings:  

  • Titanium 
  • Copper 
  • Stainless Steel 
  • Aluminum 
  • Alloys of the above materials 
  • Ceramics (must be applied as a composite, not in pure form.) 

copper texture

The best surfaces for cold spray bonding include any surface that can withstand the high-pressure cold spray coating process. Soft substrates would likely erode under the pressure-sprayed particulates. The same is true for friable surfaces.  

Industrial relevance 

To date, the cold spray coating process is commonly used in: 

  • The aerospace industry (for example, in aluminum coatings to refurbish or protect magnesium components)  
  • Heavy Industrial shafts and cast iron engine casings 
  • Nuclear fuel rod coatings and component repairs 
  • The cookware industry (ferrite coatings on certain conduction cookware pieces) 
  • Near net shapes, performance-enhancing layers, free forms 
  • Turbine component coatings
  • And many more we just can’t talk about…

cookware

The industrial applications for cold spray evolve continually with technology advancements and capabilities

The cold spray coating process advantage 

Above, we discussed the physics and structure of cold spray bonds, which can preserve the metal composition and bond size of the spray particles and the substrate surface. There are several other advantages of using cold spray technology. 

  1. Cold spray is portable​: This technology may reduce or eliminate the need to pull machinery off a production line or disassemble equipment to access the surface to be fixed or coated. Cold spray guns are agile and can fit into a variety of spaces while applying reliable bonds and coatings of precise thickness. 
  2. Cold spray is fast​: Because this technology eliminates several steps from a conventional high-temp bonding process, repairs occur in a fraction of the time. There’s no need for “cooling” from a hot bonding application. You can often achieve a “shoot-and-start-up” result from a cold-spray bond.  
  3. No bulk particle melting​: Because of the high-pressure bond created by cold spray, melted particles are not necessary for the process. 
  4. Enables thicker coatings​: Because of the elimination of ​solidification stress​ (stress or deformation on the substrate surface as it hardens after high-temp bonding), you’re clear to thicken the coating dramatically, at a lower risk. 
  5. Decreased surface prep​: The cold spray coating process often reduces the need for grit blast on the substrate surface. Because of the narrow particulate stream, you may also reduce or eliminate masking on the substrate surface. 

Other cold spray coating process advantages 

Since cold spray technology does not compromise either the particle or substrate structure during the bonding process (remember the molecular “hug” we talked about earlier?), bonds, coatings, and repairs may last longer than in welding or other thermal spray applications.  

Spray flow from aerosol can on black background.

When your equipment lasts longer, you save money in the long run with reduced capital expenditures on machinery. Furthermore, your production line or other services can enjoy more “up” time over the life of your equipment. 

 Both of these scenarios mean more revenue potential with fewer operation interruptions.  

With the agility of a cold spray system, you may also save significantly on labor costs in your shop. Your maintenance staff can pinpoint the part or machine in need of repair or coating, and shoot a coating onto the desired seam, joint, or part with increased dexterity and speed. 

VRC Metal Systems knows cold spray technology

With services ranging from on-site equipment training to sourcing additives to equipment leasing, VRC Metal Systems is an end-to-end partner in developing your cold spray solutions. 

Our customized approach means we strategize, source, and develop the right equipment, tools, and materials to meet your coating needs. We also stay on the leading edge of cold spray technology innovations and remain able to solution-find on demand for our clients.

Contact us​ today to set up a cold spray technology consultation, and see in real time how you can benefit from using the cold spray coating process in your operation.

Extending Product Life Through Cold Spray Technology

Replacing worn-out or damaged products presents a variety of challenges for any company. Extending product life cycle stages as much as possible is the goal of many an Operations Director or  COO. 

The cost of replacement can be prohibitive as well as unexpected when a part breaks down. Plus, replacing equipment often means significant downtime for your production line, repair services, or other industrial applications. 

 VRC Metal Systems drives its service with these challenges at heart. Our custom-designed cold spray technology solutions help your organization remain nimble, prolong product life cycle stages and function, and increase your operational “up-time.”  

Contact us today​ to begin collaborating on your next repair project, and preserve the life of your equipment indefinitely with cold spray technology. 

What are the benefits of cold spray repairs over other methods? 

Contractor's hand with brush that painting metal construction.

Cold spray coating works by shooting pressurized gas and small particles of coating material through a nozzle at a very high velocity. The high kinetic energy of the accelerated particles deforms and activates on impact the surfaces enough to bond molecularly with a substrate material. 

 Cold spray technology differs from thermal coating methods in that both the coating and the substrate heat up, but just enough to bond tightly without becoming molten.  

 During the spraying process, the additive and substrate particles “plasticize,” meaning they mold around each other almost as if they were warm plastic, and the high velocity impact blasts away surface oxides, allowing a true metallurgical bond to form between impacting particles. 

 Some of the advantages to a cold spray coating process over a thermal one are: 

  • Heat-sensitive alloy compatibility 
  • Low thermal stress 
  • It does not require an inert environment (you can apply cold spray coatings in a variety of settings.) 
  • Can process metals prone to cracking in thermal coating applications 
  • Reduction or elimination of oxidation in an open environment 
  • Choose high pressure for depositing high strength metals (like steel and titanium alloys)  and to achieve the best properties (even for softer materials like copper and aluminum) 
  • 3D printing capabilities as near-net-shapes 
  • Formation of dense, strong bonds with high rates of deposition 
  • Potentially dramatic cost savings over thermal coating methods 
  • Nimble application–you may be able to repair equipment with cold spray technology without equipment  removal from your line, or component removal from the product 
  • Low material waste–with minimal masking and high deposition efficiencies 
  • Energy-efficient technology, which may lower your carbon footprint 
Polyurea Spraying, warming foam coating of roof, focus on wall.

Cold spray can be used again and again on the same bond

While​ repeated welding can increase the risk of corrosion in some materials​, cold spray technology does not share this risk. In effect, cold spray remains an effective repair method no matter how many times you coat the same surface. 

 Remember, cold spray bonds do not shrink from solidification or sensitize the substrate as other thermal coating processes may. The resilience of CS coating is superior in many applications. 

 Also, cold spray systems can adapt to just about any working space and do not need specialized environments in which to be effective. Your cold spray technology goes where you need it to, and bonds to surfaces reliably and repeatedly. 

Industrial applications for cold-spray repairs 

B-1 aircraft hydraulic lines often chafe during use. These lines are made of titanium, a light-weight and formable metal that is necessary to bend around the tight spaces inside the aircraft. However, titanium is also vulnerable to chafing wear, surface scratches, and other “dings” can negatively impact the line’s safety and function. 

These lines (notoriously) often need replacing, which gets expensive and time-consuming quickly, making it one of the most common and costly maintenance items on the aircraft. Cold spray technology has been shown to increase the product life cycle stages in these titanium hydraulic lines by laying down a protective titanium coating in high-chafe areas to extend their service life. 

Inspectors can discern between the coating and the actual tube by the varying degrees of reflectivity in the tubing material versus the cold spray coating.  

Surveyor inspecting ship in floating dock

Safety inspectors can also use ultrasonic thickness inspection to determine when chafing through the protective layer on the hose surface threatens to expose the tube itself. When the protective layer wears thin, repeated CS coating layers can be applied to reinforce the chafe area and prolong the titanium tube’s life indefinitely. 

CS coating over replacement saves time and money each time a new coating is applied 

Further, using helium as the propellant in this application prevents a brittle crust, or alpha case from forming around the coated area of the line. 

Cold spray technology can also extend the product life cycle stages of parts of equipment made of titanium, magnesium, and related alloys.  

The ability to apply cold spray coatings without completely disassembling machinery or production lines makes this technology an obvious repair choice in many instances. 

Think of cold spray coatings for finished product repair (aircraft engines, automobiles) as well as for the machines that create them (coating, protecting, repairing production line equipment.) 

The automotive industry also continues to expand its use of cold spray technology by coating synchronizer and pistons to extend their lives. The auto-body industry also uses cold spray more and more for bonding and protective coatings. 

More repair possibilities for cold spray technology 

Several other industrial applications for cold spray coatings look promising, and can provide a foundation for expanding cold spray’s use.  

Cold spray helps protect the turbines in jet engines by repairing small flaws in superalloy components, that if left untreated could become a critical failure down the road. This technology also lengthens the part life cycle in older naval ships and their components.  

In the medical industry, cold spray can provide antimicrobial copper coatings to create self-disinfecting surfaces that prevent the formation of biofilms to help reduce hospital acquired infection rates and slow the spread of other contagious bacteria and viruses from common touch surfaces.

Close up image of rusty metal structure, corrosionPartner with VRC Metal Systems to increase your product life cycle stages VRC Metal Systems leads the industry in customized cold spray applications. Whether your goal is to repair, protect, or create in your operation, the team at VRC Metal Systems can build or curate the right equipment for the job. 

Our intimate and evolving experience with a wide variety of cold spray applications makes us adept collaborators on developing new cold spray solutions. We work with and for a wide range of industries, and our cold spray innovations evolve continuously. 

Contact us today​, and we’ll get in touch to discuss your needs and provide the cold spray technology strategy and implementation you require.

Cold Spray vs Thermal Spray – An Overview

What do the aerospace, shipping, oil, gas, and mining industries all have in common? They have high-dollar components that cause even higher-dollar down-time when they require repair or replacement. 

These industries have traditionally relied on thermal spray processes, like flame spraying and arc spraying. These modalities have been in development since the early 1900s, to repair and enhance original equipment.

Plasma spraying, another method of equipment repair, arrived in the industry about 50 years later in the ‘70s.

Cold spray processes are a much more recent development, gaining popularity in the 1990s. Portable, high-pressure, cold spray equipment, like that developed by VRC Metal Systems, is at the forefront of this emerging technology.

You can find more information on cold spray vs. thermal spray below. To determine how cold spray technology may apply to your next project, contact the experts at VRC Metal Systems.

Ocean going vessel in dry dock for repairs

Cold spray

What is it?

Cold spray is a coating deposition process in which powdered material is accelerated to supersonic speeds, as high as Mach 3. The accelerated powder is deposited onto a similar or dissimilar material surface. The powders reach high velocity using a high-pressure, electrically heated carrier gas, like nitrogen or helium.

Sending the gas and powders through a de Laval nozzle accelerates the powder to supersonic speed. The de Laval nozzle is a tube that contains an internal asymmetric hourglass shape and converts the heat energy of the flow into kinetic energy. Jet engines and steam turbines also use these types of nozzles.

Once the particles achieve these high speeds and impact the material surface, the particles undergo a plastic deformation causing them to bond to the target surface. The mechanical interlocking of the particles, as well as recrystallization at the surface interfaces, creates a strong bond between particle and surface.

There are two types of cold spray:

High-pressure cold spray (HPCS) – uses nitrogen, helium, or air at pressures ranging from 300-1000 psi, and is used for spraying high strength metals and alloys. 

Low-pressure cold spray (LPCS) – uses the same compressed gases, at pressures below 300 psi, and is used for spraying soft metals and mixtures of metals and ceramic powders.

Using cold spray

Cold spray powders can be pure metals, alloys, or be a mixture of metallic and non-metallic particles. These powders allow for the application of material coatings, the repair of a surface with similar or improved materials, or the component features by spraying onto a surface and then machining the desired features into the cold spray.

Cold spray materials can create wear-resistant coatings, improving the life-cycle of a component subject to severe conditions. The cold spray process can also provide a corrosion protection coating, perfect for marine and industrial applications using bronze, stainless steel, zinc, aluminum, or even tantalum, just to name a few. 

This process improves or repairs aluminum, nickel, or titanium components, among many others. Dimensionally modifying or repairing the original piece is most often a more economical solution to replacing the component completely.

Why is it used?

Cold spray is a “green” type of technology. There is no chemical heating  and no melting in the process, so there are no toxic fumes. Furthermore, the waste materials are recyclable and repairing vs. replacing parts saves energy and reduces CO2 emissions.

Due to the focused particle spray path, minimal masking of the substrate area is required, and there is no heat-affected zone either. There is also no oxidation, alloy decomposition, or combustion product entrapment with a cold spray process.

Using cold spray is also an extremely cost-effective alternative to replacing the whole part. For example, a 40” x 40” panel on a B1 bomber can cost up to $200K to replace with an 18-month lead time. Depending upon the extent of the damage, you can repair this same panel using cold spray technology in days instead of months and for a tiny fraction of the replacement cost.

The portable cold spray equipment developed by VRC Metal Systems also makes cold spray the optimal solution for parts where removal for repair is not an option.

Gas turbine engine and gas compressor with piping and tubing accessories at oil and gas central processing platform.

Thermal spray

What is it?

Thermal spray is another coating deposition process. However, the material in this process is in the form of molten, or semi-molten, droplets that are sprayed onto a surface. The materials used can be heated by electrical or chemical means. 

Typical materials include metals, ceramics, and polymers, but can include anything that melts or becomes plastic during the heating process. You can typically use thermal spraying to apply coatings of .1 to 1mm in thickness but sometimes thicker in limited cases. 

A thermal spray bond is mechanical in nature, not metallurgical or fused. The condition of the substrate surface is critical and must be clean and roughened before spraying.

Below, we provide more information on the several types of thermal spraying.

Plasma spraying: uses an electrical means to heat the coating material. An electric arc forms a high-temp plasma jet. The coating material feeds into the plasma jet as well as an inert gas, which expands rapidly to create a high-velocity spray of particles.

Arc spraying: is another process that uses an electrical means to heat the coating material. An electrical arc initiates between two coating material sources, causing them to melt. Compressed air atomizes the coating and propels the droplet towards the desired surface.

Flame spraying: uses a chemical means of heating. A fuel gas such as propane or hydrogen, and oxygen, mix to heat the coating material either in wire or powder form. Inert gas propels the coating at the substrate.

HVOF (High-velocity oxy-fuel) spraying: is another chemically heat produced process. The heat and pressure generate from combusting a liquid or gas fuel mixed with oxygen. The spray particles heat and expand in a chamber forcing the exhaust gases out at supersonic speeds towards the substrate.

How is it used?

Similar to cold spray, thermal spray produces coatings on substrate materials, enhancing the original materials characteristics, changing their appearance, or creating dimensional surface repairs.

Thermal spray coatings help significantly in the manufacturing and repair of oil field equipment, diesel engines, gas turbines, and coating medical implants.

Why is it used?

One of the main advantages of using thermal spray is that coatings can be applied at high deposition rates, but generally lose strength and toughness at thicknesses greater than 1mm. Thermal spray can be used as an alternative to nickel and chrome plating, nitride or heat treat processes, weld overlay, or anodizing.

Like cold spray, thermal spray can sometimes repair parts at a fraction of the cost to replace the same part, but it depends greatly on the types of materials involved and the sensitivity of the component. Thermal spray can also be used to apply wear-resistant coatings to extend the life of a component, but again with certain limitations. In many cases, the current limitations of these higher temperature processes can be overcome by cold spray.

Cost-effective restoration and repairs

VRC Metal Systems has revolutionized the process of applying cold spray technology. Our cold spray system is both high-pressure and portable and provides fast, cost-effective restoration and repairs.Contact us today to find out how we can support and improve your next project with our cold spray products and services.

Cold Spray vs Thermal Spray – An Overview

What do the aerospace, shipping, oil, gas, and mining industries all have in common? They have high-dollar components that cause even higher-dollar down-time when they require repair or replacement. 

These industries have traditionally relied on thermal spray processes, like flame spraying and arc spraying. These modalities have been in development since the early 1900s, to repair and enhance original equipment.

Plasma spraying, another method of equipment repair, arrived in the industry about 50 years later in the ‘70s.

Cold spray processes are a much more recent development, gaining popularity in the 1990s. Portable, high-pressure, cold spray equipment, like that developed by VRC Metal Systems, is at the forefront of this emerging technology.

You can find more information on cold spray vs. thermal spray below. To determine how cold spray technology may apply to your next project, contact the experts at VRC Metal Systems.

Ocean going vessel in dry dock for repairs

Cold spray

What is it?

Cold spray is a coating deposition process in which powdered material is accelerated to supersonic speeds, as high as Mach 3. The accelerated powder deposited onto a similar or dissimilar material surface. The powders reach high velocity using a high-pressure, electrically heated carrier gas, like nitrogen or helium.

Sending the gas and powders through A de Laval nozzle accelerates the powder to supersonic speed. The de Laval nozzle is a tube that contains an internal asymmetric hourglass shape and converts the heat energy of the flow into kinetic energy. Jet engines and steam turbines also use these types of nozzles.

Once the particles achieve these high speeds and impact the material surface, the particles undergo a plastic deformation causing them to bond to the target surface. The mechanical interlocking of the particles, as well as recrystallization at the surface interfaces, creates a strong bond between particle and surface.

There are two types of cold spray:

High-pressure cold spray (HPCS) – uses nitrogen or helium, has a flow rate of more than 2 m3/min, and is used for spraying pure metals. 

Low-pressure cold spray (LPCS) – uses a compressed gas, with a flow rate up to 2 m3/min, and is used for flowing a mixture of metal and ceramic powders.

Using cold spray

Cold spray powders use a mixture of metallic and non-metallic compounds. These mixtures allow for the application of material coatings, the repair of a surface with similar or improved materials, or the creation of free-standing components by spraying onto a substrate and then removing the original substrate base.

Cold spray materials often combine to create wear-resistant coatings, improving the life-cycle of a component subject to severe conditions. By using zinc or aluminum, the cold spray process provides a corrosion-resistant coating, perfect for marine applications. 

This process alters or repairs aluminum, nickel, or titanium components, among many others. Dimensionally modifying or repairing the original piece is most often a more economical solution to replacing the component completely.

Why is it used?

Cold spray is a “green” type of technology. There is no chemical heating process required, which results in no toxic fumes, and reduces CO2 emissions.

Due to the focused particle spray path, minimal masking of the substrate area is required, and there is no heat-affected zone either. There is also no oxidation, alloy decomposition, or combustion product entrapment with a cold spray process.

Using cold spray is also an extremely cost-effective alternative to replacing the whole part. For example, a 40” x 40” panel on a B1 bomber costs around $250K to replace. Depending upon the extent of the damage, you can repair this same panel using cold spray technology for around $10K.

The portable cold spray equipment developed by VRC Metal Systems also makes cold spray the optimal solution for parts where removal for repair is not an option.

Gas turbine engine and gas compressor with piping and tubing accessories at oil and gas central processing platform.

Thermal spray

What is it?

Thermal spray is another coating deposition process. However, the material in this process is in the form of molten, or semi-molten, droplets that are sprayed onto a surface. The materials used can be heated by electrical or chemical means. 

Typical materials include metals, ceramics, and polymers, but can include anything that melts or becomes plastic during the heating process. You can typically use thermal spraying to apply coatings of .1 to 10mm in thickness. 

A thermal spray bond is mechanical in nature, not metallurgical or fused. The condition of the substrate surface is critical and must be clean and roughened before spraying.

Below, we provide more information on the several types of thermal spraying.

Plasma spraying: uses an electrical means to heat the coating material. An electric arc forms a high-temp plasma jet. The coating material feeds into the plasma jet as well as an inert gas, which expands rapidly to create a high-velocity spray of particles.

Arc spraying: is another process that uses an electrical means to heat the coating material. An electrical arc initiates between two coating material sources, causing them to melt. Compressed air atomizes the coating and propels the droplet towards the desired surface.

Flame spraying: uses a chemical means of heating. A fuel gas such as propane or hydrogen, and oxygen, mix to heat the coating material either in wire or powder form. Inert gas propels the coating at the substrate.

HVOF (High-velocity oxy-fuel) spraying: is another chemically heat produced process. The heat and pressure generate from combusting a liquid or gas fuel mixed with oxygen. The spray particles heat and expand in a chamber forcing the exhaust gases out at supersonic speeds towards the substrate.

How is it used?

Similar to cold spray, thermal spray produces coatings on substrate materials, enhancing the original materials characteristics, changing their appearance, creating dimensional repairs, or creating free-standing components by removing a shaped substrate after coating.

Thermal spray coatings help significantly in the manufacturing and repair of oil field equipment, diesel engines, gas turbines, and coating medical implants.

Why is it used?

One of the main advantages of using thermal spray is that thick coatings can be applied at high deposition rates. Thermal spray can be used as an alternative to nickel and chrome plating, nitride or heat treat processes, weld overlay, or anodizing.

Like cold spray, thermal spray can repair parts at a fraction of the cost to replace the same part. Using thermal spray to apply wear-resistant coatings can also extend the life of a component.

Cost-effective restoration and repairs

VRC Metal Systems has revolutionized the process of applying cold spray technology. Our cold spray system is both high-pressure and portable and provides fast, cost-effective restoration and repairs.Contact us today to find out how we can support and improve your next project with our cold spray products and services.

Contact VRC Metal Systems

Call, email, snail mail or visit the VRC Metal Systems offices today to talk to a representative about how your business can benefit from our cold spray systems and service.

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VRC Metal Systems
600 N Ellsworth Rd
Box Elder, SD 57719

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