Army Technology Named 2012 Project of the Year

Cold spray technology for aircraft component repairs.

A project involving the U.S. Army Research Laboratory’s (ARL’s) cold spray technology was named one of six environment technology Projects of the Year, recognized for research and technology developments with significant benefits to the Department of Defense (DoD).

The Supersonic Particle Deposition for Repair of Magnesium Aircraft Components project, led by Victor K. Champagne, Jr., of ARL’s Weapons and Materials Research Directorate (WMRD), was named the 2012 Environmental Security Technology Certification Program (ESTCP) Project of the Year.

ESTCP is DoD’s environmental technology demonstration and validation program. The program’s goal is to identify and demonstrate cost-effective technologies that address DoD’s highest priority environmental requirements.

The project team developed a cold spray process that involves accelerating aluminum alloy particles to high velocities, and impacting them on the surface of the magnesium alloy components.

In their project, the cold spray process was demonstrated and validated to be a cost-effective, environmentally acceptable technology that could provide surface protection, as well as a method for restoring magnesium components that have been removed from service.

The process can be incorporated into manufacturing, and portable systems can be developed for field repair. A cold spray demonstration facility was established at the Navy’s Fleet Readiness Center – East, in North Carolina (formerly the Naval Air Depot Cherry Point).

This project resulted in the implementation of cold spray by Sikorsky Aircraft Company. Both Sikorsky and the Army Program Office for the UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter have approved cold spray for use as a repair technology for one UH-60 magnesium component, with other approvals expected soon.

ARL developed a Military Process Specification, “MIL-STD-3021, Materials Deposition, Cold Spray,” that was selected for the Defense Standardization Program Award in 2008. With future implementation, the cold spray process should provide a significant return on investment through increased in-service life and the ability to reclaim extremely valuable components.

“I want to thank all of who persisted in this effort with me to qualify the first DoD cold spray repair. It took us six years and a lot of sweat and toil from many fronts. We all know how difficult it is for people to accept change, but we can all be proud that we will be saving the DoD and ultimately the tax payer millions of dollars in sustainment costs.”

The Army, Navy, and Air Force have experienced significant corrosion problems with magnesium alloys that are used to fabricate many different types of aircraft components. The most severe of these problems are associated with large and expensive transmission and gearbox housings for rotorcraft which have to be removed prematurely because of corrosion, research indicates.

Many of the components cannot be reclaimed because there is no existing technology that can restore them adequately for service.

The Corpus Christi Army Depot has millions of dollars of used magnesium housings waiting to be reclaimed. Overall, premature failures of these components cost the DoD approximately $100 million per year, Champagne said.

The Fleet Readiness Center East has provided maintenance, repair, and overhaul support to virtually every weapons platform the Marine Corps has flown – from the inverted gull-winged F4U Corsair of World.

The winning team also included Robert Kestler of the Fleet Readiness Center – East; Robert Guillemette of Sikorsky Aircraf); Michael Kane of Army Aviation Missile Command; Timothy J. Eden of the Applied Research Laboratory at The Pennsylvania State University; Keith Legg of Rowan Technology Group; Darren Gerrard of Defence Science and Technology Organization, Australia; and Stacey Luker of Joint Strike Fighter Program’s Environmental, Safety and Occupational Health Team.

ESTCP and the Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (SERDP) are the DoD’s environmental research programs, harnessing the latest science and technology to improve DoD’s environmental performance, reduce costs, and enhance and sustain mission capabilities.

The Programs respond to environmental technology requirements that are common to all of the military Services, complementing the Services’ research programs. SERDP and ESTCP promote partnerships and collaboration among academia, industry, the military Services, and other Federal agencies. They are independent programs managed from a joint office to coordinate the full spectrum of efforts, from basic and applied research to field demonstration and validation.

SERDP is DoD’s environmental science and technology program, executed in partnership with the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). SERDP invests in basic and applied research and advanced development.

From www.arl.army.mil

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