28th MXS conducts first-ever on-aircraft Cold Spray structural repair

  • Published
  • By Airman Quentin K. Marx
  • 28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs

The 28th Maintenance Squadron Additive Manufacturing Rapid Repair Facility conducted its first-ever Cold Spray repair on an aircraft Sept. 18.

The section repaired simulated corrosion damage on the wing of a B-52 Stratofortress static display at the South Dakota Air and Space Museum using the GEN III High-Pressure Cold Spray unit.

“Cold Spray is when you shoot particles at supersonic speeds [to] where the particles would build up on the surface of the metal,” said Master Sgt. Jeremy Horstman, the 28th MXS Additive Manufacturing Rapid Repair Facility section chief. “This Cold Spray unit uses helium gas to accelerate spherical aluminum particles to bond with the surface… to repair that part.”

This event was first just an idea to see how the rapid repair section could improve Cold Spray repair procedures.

“This project started as an idea for long-term Cold Spray [repairs], which is structural load-carrying repairs, and was [utilized] to demonstrate Cold Spray [technology’s] ability to repair non-repairable corrosion-damaged areas,” said Horstman.

In the past, corrosion would be blended out, then painted over. During a Cold Spray repair, the corrosion is removed through the previous procedure, then filled in with the aluminum material. Once filled, technicians sand down the new aluminum until it is flush with the original surface.

The entire procedure demonstrated different ways Cold Spray can be used. It also showed that the GEN III, manufactured by VRC Metal Systems in Rapid City, can be transported to any aircraft. Additionally, the ability to move this system allows technicians to work on the aircraft in a safe and productive manner.

Numerous agencies collaborated to complete this first of its kind repair on the B-52, such as VRC Metal Systems, Air Force Life Cycle Management, the University of Dayton Research Institute, the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, and the Army Research Lab. Additionally, units from Ellsworth, including the 28th Medical Group Bioenvironmental flight and 28th Civil Engineer Squadron units collaborated on this effort.

Together, these organizations acquired a variety of data, to include air samples, during the procedure. This will aid the Air Force in determining what is required to do future on-aircraft Cold Spray repairs on the flight line.

“It felt great to be a part of the first group to do this operation, and I was happy that everything went well,” said Tech. Sgt. Lance Liverman, 28th MXS Additive Manufacturing Rapid Repair Facility noncommissioned officer in charge.