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Mending Broken B-Ones: Cold Spray Keeps Planes Ready, Lethal

The 28th Maintenance Squadron’s cold spray machine goes through the first approved repair of a forward equipment bay May 15, 2018, at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D.

The 28th Maintenance Squadron’s cold spray machine goes through the first approved repair of a forward equipment bay May 15, 2018, at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D. The successful repair of each panel saves the Air Force approximately $225,000 in repair costs. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman James L. Miller)

The 28th Maintenance Squadron’s cold spray machine repairs the first approved part of a B-1 bomber part May 15, 2018, at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D.

The 28th Maintenance Squadron’s cold spray machine repairs the first approved part of a B-1 bomber part May 15, 2018, at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D. After the process is complete, the repaired sections will be grinded down, re-drilled and put back onto the aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman James L. Miller)

A B-1 forward equipment bay is repaired with cold spray technology May 15, 2018, at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D.

A B-1 forward equipment bay is repaired with cold spray technology May 15, 2018, at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D. With the success of the repair, parts can be ready for quality control checks sooner, saving time and money for the Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman James L. Miller)

ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. -- – The 28th Maintenance Squadron, in conjunction with VRC Metals Systems, took a step forward to extending the service life of the B-1 bomber, at Ellsworth Air Force Base, May 15, 2018
The first approved piece of a B-1 bomber was repaired with cold spray technology, which saves the Air Force approximately $225,000 per panel fixed.

"With this, we're cutting down material waste, we're cutting down man hours, we're cutting down time, and everything is sped up significantly when we use the cold spray process," said Tech. Sgt. Jeremy Horstman, 28th MXS aircraft structural section chief.

The process has been refined over the last 20 years with successful applications by the U.S. Army and U.S. Navy, but this marks the first operational use of the technology by the U.S. Air Force. Dustin Blosmo, VRC’s chief cold spray engineer, explained how the cold spray process is similar to welding, but as the name suggests, the metal never heats up past the melting point.

"We take fine metallic powder, ramp it up with really high pressure, and we spray it into the substrate, or the damaged piece," Horstman said. "The particles hit the piece at such a high speed that they actually bond to the material."

Cold spray is the product of a partnership between base representatives, the Army Research Laboratory, the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, H.F. Webster Engineering Services, MOOG Integrated Support Solutions, the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex and other state and federal organizations. The prototype repair was developed at the SDSM&T.

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