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

By Senior Airman James L. Miller 28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs

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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.


Editor's note: The original story can be viewed on the Ellsworth Air Force Base website.