CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. — Over 20 participants from across the Department of Defense, private industry and academia gathered at Letterkenny Army Depot Feb. 9 for a demonstration of the latest applications of cold spray technology.
LEAD integrated cold spray to mitigate corrosion on Army systems in the past year, and engineers are looking to leverage the technology further.
“Cold spray is an additive manufacturing technology that we’re using to repair parts,” said Ashley Filling, a production engineer at LEAD. “Unlike other additive manufacturing technologies that are used to make parts, cold spray is used to repair many different materials. We’re focusing on several aluminum alloys and a high-hard steel repair.”
The demonstration focused on robotic and mobile cold spray applications. These applications will help to expand LEAD’s cold spray capabilities.
“We are getting a robot on capital investment for 2025. Right now, we do all hand spray, but we want to upgrade,” Filling said. “We’re working with Army Research Lab and Penn State to advance more repairs at Letterkenny. We’re working with Penn State on some different alloys. Army Research Lab is working on weldable cold spray repair for us. We are actively seeking a deployable cold spray capability. Lots of our customers ask, ‘how do we get this in the field,’ so we are excited to bring them that capability.”
Although cold spray has existed for over 20 years, new advancements and creative problem-solving offer cost and time savings to the depot. Utilizing cold spray repairs on a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System roof saved LEAD over 12 months in repair time and over $750,000 in cost savings.
“Cold spray isn’t a kind of pie-in-the-sky idea. It’s actually something which is being used readily in the DOD,” said Michael Nicholas, Northeast additive manufacturing lead, Army Research Laboratory, U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command. “[Cold spray] started with an idea, and it has grown into a viable solution for the DOD to help us keep our aging weapon systems in the fight longer. It includes industry, academia, national labs, different R&D centers, international partners, and it runs all the way from physics, modeling and simulation all the way through application and development systems. Today we’re going to see those systems which have been developed for applying cold spray at the point of view.”
The demonstration took place within the depot’s cold spray booth. The mobile technology was utilized through robotics and hand spray application, showcasing the system’s versatility.
“The mobile system is the result of collaboration between DEVCOM-ARL, VRC Metal Systems, Northeastern University and U.S. Army Natick Soldier Systems Center,” Nicholas stated.
The mobile unit comprises two trailers; one for the generator and the second for gas compression and storage. Additionally, the gas compression trailer contained an easily maneuverable cart, allowing the robotic arm, cold spray machine and spraying equipment to be wheeled in close proximity to the asset for repair. This mobile unit also comes equipped with a dust collector to mitigate localized overspray.
“Being able to provide a deployable capability, to make repairs in the field when the damage first starts as opposed to waiting until they get back to the depot, will be a huge win,” Filling remarked. “Stopping corrosion and other damage in the field means the assets should return in better shape, require less work and save time and money in the repair process. This will help our Soldiers keep their equipment in the field longer in better working order.”
Cold spray continues to be a reliable means of corrosion mitigation for LEAD. This demonstration not only informed attendees about mobile units but also allowed collaboration and best-practice sharing.
“Why does the DOD care about cold spray?” Nicholas said. “The main reasons are because we have aging weapons platforms that have areas that can be mitigated using this repair solution.”
Letterkenny Army Depot is the Army's premier professional organic maintenance facility that provides overhaul, repair and modifications for tactical missile air defense and space systems, electric power generation equipment, and various military vehicles, support systems, and protection programs. LEAD is a subordinate of U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command and is the Air and Missile Defense and Long Range Precision Fires depot, supporting systems for the Department of Defense, foreign partners and industry. Letterkenny Army Depot was established in 1942 and is a government-owned and -operated industrial installation located in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania.