Nov.14, 2013

General Electric researchers have developed an additive technology called "Cold Spray" in which metal powders are sprayed at high velocities to build a part or add material to repair an existing part. Cold spray is part of GE's expanded additive manufacturing toolkit.

The technology was invented in Russia in mid-80s and today cold spray is mostly used for repair. The biggest application in the US is for the US army to repair helicopter parts that are made out of magnesium alloys. But most of the work that's being done today is soft, low temperature alloys, like copper, aluminum and zinc. For GE the challenge was to use this technology to produce high quality deposits made of high temperature Ni and Ti alloys. The Cold Spray technology GE has developed can be used for additive manufacturing to build 3D shapes or repair existing metal construction without damaging or investing heavily in the core material.

Anteneh Kebbede, Manager of the Coating and Surface Technologies Lab at the GE Research Center said, "In addition to being able to build new parts without welding or machining, 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."

This new additive technology is more akin to painting than 3D printing. Metal powders are deposited at high speeds of Mach 4 on the surface of material that needs repair for example jet plane parts at temperature below melting point.

Spray technologies are particularly attractive for the production of large structures, which are challenging for today's powder-bed additive manufacturing processes due to equipment size limitations. The cold spray technique has the potential to scale up to build larger parts, with the only limitation being the size of the area over which metal powders can be applied.

Cold spray demonstrates a unique marriage of materials, process, and product function which can, in the immediate future, transform repair processes for industrial and aircraft components such as rotors, blades, shafts, propellers, and gear boxes. Since cold spray does not require heat, like common repair processes such as welding, it allows a repaired part to be restored close to its original condition. In GE's Oil and Gas business, GE researchers are exploring cold spray as an alternate way to repair or coat parts involved in oil and gas drilling and turbo machinery.

Cold spray's future benefits include extended product lifespan and reduced manufacturing time and material costs, all of which translate into significant customer benefits.

Via: GEGlobalResearch


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