A team of experts from South Dakota School of Mines in Rapid City has worked with members of America’s Air Force to deliver a fix that only took a few hours for a problem that using traditional repair methods would have taken eight weeks.
The Rapid City Journal outlined how there’s a 15,000-square-foot, first-of-its-kind facility at Ellsworth Air Force Base, just east of Rapid City.
There, the repair on the B-1 bomber was done. Using cold spray.
“This would have normally involved eight weeks of downtime,” explained Brian James, a graduate student from Mines and now a chief engineer with the 28th Maintenance Group. “With cold spray we were able to do this in a couple of hours.”
The new technology was used to repair a broken hinge on the fuselage of a B-1B Lancer.
The report from the Journal explained cold spray is a process that sprays metal microparticles onto a metal surface at very high velocities.
They stick to the targeted surface and form a dense coating, which then can be machined.
In many situations, it is a usable repair procedure to restore worn or damaged aircraft parts.
Traditional repairs would have had experts hunting for spare parts from a salvaged bomber; a procedure that could have cost $500,000.
James told the Journal work on the repair procedures was begun more than a decade back, with research projects at Mines, which was focused on better ways to restore obsolete or legacy aircraft components.
It now is part of the toolbox at Ellsworth, where B-1s are housed.
James noted the Ellsworth process is a one-of-a-kind, and essentially is taking tech that’s been tested and putting it into “combat level” service immediately.
Staff Sgt. Chynna Patterson, a machinist and welder assigned to the 28th Maintenance Squadron at Ellsworth, spent 10 years working on other aircraft like the A-10 Warthog.
“This technology allows us to maintain the aircraft in ways that would previously have been very time consuming and very expensive,” she told the Journal.
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