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ROI of Cold Spray Technology

Are you trying to decide whether or not to invest in cold spray technology? Maybe you are already sold on the process but want more information on how to convince others that the return on investment of cold spray technology will prove to be worth it?

 The advantages of using cold spray coatings vs. the alternatives are many. This revolutionary technology has only gained in popularity since it was invented in the 1990s and for a good reason. 

In 2013 the ​Air Force estimated​ that cold spray technology could save the Department of Defense over 100 million dollars annually if implemented DOD-wide. Many of these millions in savings have now been realized, and new areas of savings have been identified. Many other organizations are attracted to the benefits of its portability, safety, and versatility. 

Image of plane engine maintenance

If you are already convinced of the positive impact that cold spray technology could have for you, contact VRC Metals ​for a free feasibility assessment and cost estimate. VRC is a leader in the cold spray technology field that has created processes for both military and commercial use. 

 Portability  

One of the best features of cold spray technology is the ease of use. Cold Spray Technology is more portable than many alternatives due to its ability to repair components in place.

Portability offers the ability to repair and maintain metal parts in the field, and in some cases without disassembling the segment of equipment you are working on, which can mean incredible time savings to the overall repair along with significantly reduced downtime. 

 The inherent portability of cold spray is enhanced by VRC Metals’ ​Gen III™ Portable High-Pressure Cold Spray System​. This system is the only one of its kind. It allows for repairs to be made 100 feet or more from the skid and up to 20 feet away from the portable powder feeder and heater units using high temperature flexible hoses.

Return on Investment

The portability of the Gen III also provides added flexibility and cost savings for companies looking to increase their metal repair speed. Repairs can be made by hand or by robot, however, the customer chooses.

Portability can lead to happier workers who are better able to complete their tasks. The advantage of portability is also seen in the cost-effective maintenance of the cold spray applicators and nozzles. This means that your company can perform repairs as needed without moving away from the work area.  

 Safety 

When repairs can be done quickly and on-site, then metal components can be repaired more frequently, before damage becomes more extensive. This simplifies repairs and allows parts to remain in better condition for the long run and avoid costly damage from unplanned failures associated with longer mean times between repairs. 

Traditional welding also comes with its dangers as injuries to welders can happen. There can also be resultant damage to the surrounding environment from errant sparks.

The ​National Fire Protection Agency​ ranks welding torches as one of the top causes of non-home hot work fires. Welding was involved in 39% of structural fire cases resulting from hot work (welding, soldering, heat treating, etc.) outside of the home.  This increased safety means that less material and working hours are lost in the process, which results in more profits.

Cold spray technology is safer in terms of the result as well. The surface of the cold sprayed component has a high density and a low level of shrinkage compared to other metal spray technologies.

The resultant coatings are generally also in a light state of compressive stress and a dissimilar higher quality metal can also be deposited to further protect a surface. Altogether, this means that cold spray can protect critical components from future damage, preventing accidents or further issues needing repair.  

Cold spray can also be safer for the environment. It can offer less waste of materials through precise application and low dust amounts. Cold spray is also less toxic than some of the other application types.

Particles may be collected and reused depending on the type of application and situation, resulting in fewer materials going to waste and fewer products needing to be purchased. And of course, there are tremendous benefits by repairing rather than replacing a component with a new part.Metal undergoing maintenance

 Flexibility/Versatility 

One of the most significant areas where cold spray technology can offer a high return on investment is in its versatility. In many of the alternatives to cold spray, workers remain tied to one sort of application process. Workers may need to remove or disassemble large pieces of whatever is in the repair shop to conduct the repairs.  

Cold spray coating offers the opportunity for repairs while the component that is having work done on it is still assembled. Increased speed leads to lower costs as it saves a company time and energy that can go into other work.

This shorter turnaround time will also make a company more attractive to potential clients because they can get back to doing business as usual. Cold spray can itself be repaired by cold spray, meaning that a part can be repaired and returned to service a virtually unlimited number of times.

Cold spraying offers the opportunity to use a wide variety of applications rather than replacing a whole section of the piece being worked on by the company. Different metals and alloys can be used, as well as those that are extremely hard to apply due to their high melting point, such as titanium.

Cold spray can also be used to utilize materials that are sensitive to changes in temperature and would otherwise quickly oxidize.  

The ability to apply a wider variety of materials means that cold spray can be used for many different applications. This means that the company can avoid purchasing equipment that can only be used for one type of application.

And it means that the ROI for a cold spray equipment purchase will continue to increase by continuing to find new applications and repairs over time.  A plane engine undergoing maintenance

If you are interested in cold spray technology and what it can do for your company or would like to talk to someone to talk about the options, contact ​VRC Metals​. As a leading company in the field of cold spray technology, they are equipped to provide you with the flexibility and cost savings of cold spray in a way that best matches your company’s needs.

Challenges in Aircraft Metal Repair

Think about the tremendous and constant stress on an aircraft in flight. Aircraft repair must be a careful and reliable endeavor to ensure passengers and crew safety, as well as meeting the highest safety compliance standards in the world. 

 Choosing a strategy for aircraft repair requires diligence and near-ridiculous attention to detail for your planes to continue performing like champs. Trusting cold spray technology in your aircraft metal repair is a smart choice.  

 Below, we’ve outlined several common aircraft metal repair challenges, and how cold-spray technology can help you professionally and safely manage your aircraft maintenance. 

 VRC Metal Systems stand the test of rigor and safety again and again. ​Contact us today​ to discover and utilize our leading-edge cold spray technology aircraft repair solutions.  

Results of poor aircraft repair strategy

Passenger commercial airplane on maintenance of engine turbo jet and fuselage repair in airport hangar. Aircraft with open hood on the nose and engines, as well as the luggage compartment

It goes without saying that less-than-perfect aircraft repair can cost lives and livelihoods. The stakes are extra high when keeping flying machines in top-notch condition.  

 Not only must the initial airplane design be spot-on to guarantee safe, comfortable, and efficient flights day after day, but any repair material should be compatible with the substrate for the varied loading,  temperatures, and environments aircraft experience, without adding any significant extra weight or risk of failure. 

 A repaired joint affects another area of the aircraft. A too-weak joint won’t hold the load for which it was designed, and a too-stiff joint may stress and weaken other parts and pieces of the aircraft over time. 

Further, welding or high-temp thermal sprays present a tricky repair methodology for aluminum alloys in aircraft. The high heat and quick cooling of the welding process can disrupt the atomic copper-and-aluminum structure of conventional aircraft aluminum alloys, leading to compromised strength. 

Cold spray technology can bond particles to metal without adverse heat effects, as well as reducing the need for riveted doubler repairs. 

Cold Spray and FAA Approval 

Mechanic assesses needed repairs to a plane.

There are two types of aircraft repair relevant to cold spray technology: structural and non-structural. Cold spray repairs are currently FAA-compliant for after-market non-structural aircraft components and even some structural repair opportunities for secondary structure have been identified. 

For this discussion, ​structural repairs​ comprise maintenance to the load bearing portions of the airplane, like the wings, fuselage, and other components as either primary or secondary structure. Nonstructural repair refers to parts contained within the plane not necessary to maintain and sustain flight. 

Some types of damage to engine parts, landing gear components, and other essential and non-essential parts required for safe and reliable operation can still fit under “nonstructural” aircraft components. This depends on the location and extent of damage. 

Specialist mechanic repairs the maintenance of a large engine of a passenger aircraft in a hangar

 Currently, cold spray technology presents ​cost-saving solutions and increases the life-span of numerous non-structural parts.​ For a damaged APU gear-box, here is an example repair schematic for a cold spray repair process: 

  • Assess the gearbox damage 
  • Machine damaged segments to create a smooth surface 
  • Clean and mask damaged surface 
  • Apply cold spray  
  • Machine repaired surface to desired finish 
  • Apply final required surface finishes (i.e. repaint, anodize, etc.) 

 Compared with the 9-step process of conventional welding and high-temp thermal spray repair, cold spray technology presents a speedier and safer way to repair  aircraft components.  

 Cold spray repair systems bypass the need for stud and liner removal, distortion adjustment, stud and liner installation, and heat treatment in welding. 

Current state of cold spray aircraft repairs 

Currently, cold spray technology in aircraft repair has several useful applications with basic, low-pressure systems. For example, valve, pump, and engine components have benefited from cold spray repairs since 2009.  

Cold spray can increase the amount of time between successive repairs, and is used to maintain tight bore tolerances of .0005 inches at critical dimension repairs.  

The future of cold spray technology and structural aircraft repair 

Aircraft repair companies can look forward to a time when the FAA approves the use of cold spray for even structural aircraft repair. The advantages to structural repair with cold spray include: 

  • Fewer steps from damage assessment to repair completion 
  • Elimination of alloy damage from welding or thermal spray repairs 
  • Increase lifespan of aluminum parts 
  • Reduce costs associated with part replacement over part repair 
  • Repairs can often proceed “in-situ;” without removing a part from a plane or a component from its shipping box, saving significant man-hours in labor costs 

Airplane mechanics checking jet engine if civil aircraft

The pathway to FAA approval includes a bevy of precise testing and implementation steps. Here’s how the process works: 

  1. Target the aircraft components best suited to cold spray repairs, such as aluminum and magnesium alloy gear boxes. 
  2. Decide which part locations lend themselves best to cold spray repairs, like broken bolt holes, undersized flange thicknesses, or damage and light cracks where welding and thermal sprays would compromise structural integrity. 
  3. Ensure cold spray deposits align with the substrate material mechanical properties 
  4. Use a high-pressure application process over basic low-pressure methods to meet required mechanical properties. 
  5. Test the application on scrapped components, evaluating spray angles, pressure changes, and repair strength 
  6. Report successes and failures 
  7. Refine the cold spray application process until cold spray deposits exceed the tensile strength requirements in that area of the substrate material 
  8. Repeat testing for glueless bond and threaded hole applications for strength and pull 9. Continue to refine and repeat testing success to demonstrate functional life and reliability of repairs under  enviro-mechanical loading. 

Aircraft repair Cold spray technology has enjoyed massive success in non-structural aircraft repair. Experience has shown that cold spray can significantly cut costs and downtime for a variety of aircraft components. 

Gaining FAA approval for structural repairs with cold spray can revolutionize the aircraft repair industry by streamlining the repair process, lengthening part life, and meeting the highest safety standards of any industry. 

Cold spray technology in aircraft repair is an evolving, exciting, and innovative solution that can help large airlines and flight hobbyists alike improve and increase the life of their machines. 

Partner with VRC Metal Systems whether you own an aircraft or need a repair on your production line, VRC Metal Systems has the cold spray technology to fit nearly any application. Our systems help you gain more life from your machines quickly, efficiently, and professionally. 

 We work with you to customize your application with our superior knowledge and experience. We provide leading-edge equipment that helps you protect, repair, or restore what makes your business run.  

 We adapt to a wide variety of applications, and strategize the best cold-spray solutions for your needs. ​Contact us today​ to find out how cold spray can revolutionize your operation.  

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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605.716.0061

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

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