Engineers from Trinity College Dublin are leading a €500,000 project to further develop Cold Spray (CS) technology for the production of metal components. The four-year project is funded by the European Space Agency (ESA) and represents the largest single research award made to the university by the agency.
It was stated that there are numerous applications in space which would advance significantly given access to this technology. With the right level of automation and robotic stage design this novel technique could also produce 3D components with low manufacturing cost. The concepts being brought forth in this project will specifically target these technological bottlenecks.
A number of national companies will collaborate with the Trinity team on the technical side of the project.
Dr Rocco Lupoi, Assistant Professor in Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering in Trinity’s School of Engineering, is leading the project. He stated “This is the largest ESA research project awarded to Trinity, and we will bring CS to the next level. Not only will we bring down its cost through the development of innovative solutions, but we will also enhance its technical capabilities for use in Additive Manufacturing.”
Head of Strategic and Emerging Technologies Team at ESA, Professor David Jarvis, added “Once developed, the new form of Cold Spray manufacturing could unlock new capabilities in coated materials, as well as multi-material combinations currently not possible.”
Cold Spray accelerates powders of desired materials at supersonic speeds before firing them onto structures via a nozzle. It is currently possible to build coatings or simple geometrical components made out of a wide range of materials (metals, composites, polymers) around 1,000 times more quickly than any other Additive Manufacturing or 3D-Printing technologies allow.
The process does not require heat, which is advantageous because it means there are no heat-affected zones, microstructural changes, or distortions to worry about on the end-products. CS is, however, expensive and inefficient, so part of the Trinity team’s work will seek to drive costs down.