A Look at This Remarkable 3D Printing Style

When we think of 3D Printing, images of a fluid like substance emanating from the 3D Printer building upon layers of material to form a solid model tend to be what we see. However, 3D Printing has come a substantially long way and does not always utilise heat during additive manufacturing. Cold spray additive manufacturing (or CSAM, also known as Cold Spray 3D Printing) is quickly taking over many industries in which heat is unnecessary.

What is Cold Spray Additive Manufacturing?

Instead of building upon layers of material as with standard 3D Printing applications, cold spray additive manufacturing refers to a particle blast application in which particles remain cold but are blasted at an area or an object at high velocity. The pinpoint accuracy of the blast enables the particles to bond to one another to create the appropriate shape. Cold spray additive manufacturing uses compressed gas stream to achieve the velocity required to compose a model. Layering does still make up the production of a 3D Printed Model, but it is accomplished without the high level of heat required for other 3D Printing varieties.

An example of the Cold Spray Additive Manufacturing process to better explain what is actually taking place and how it differs from other forms of 3D Printing.

Organically Manufactured Parts

One of the main advantages of cold spray additive manufacturing is its ability to make high quality parts without the use of a molding structure in place. General Motors experienced this problem when manufacturing certain magnetically charged motor parts. Injection molding and powder compaction was once standard practice when producing certain motor parts. But today, cold spray additive manufacturing has largely taken over this sector for General Motors and other vehicle manufacturers as intricate pieces can be made without the use of a prior mold in place or an interior structure available.

Simply put, cold spray additive manufacturing promotes the ability to simply spray the part into existence. Robotic controlled nozzles can move around as needed for pin point accuracy to the final piece. This is essential, especially in vehicle manufacturing, as one wrong move or additional material added to a piece can be dangerous or cause a chain reaction within the motor that can malfunction its entire working process. Additionally, GM has found that cold spray additive manufacturing is ideal for repairing intricate parts instead of completely discarding broken pieces. Recycling at its best.

One of the parts GM Cold Spray Additive Manufacturing vehicle parts.

Improving Defense

If you have ever been to a war ravaged country, you have likely seen discarded tanks and many other memorabilia of the fighting that took place. Countries involved in war tend to simply leave behind these, sometimes very expensive pieces, as it has been deemed more cost effective to leave them where they break rather than bring them back for repairs. Traditionally, repairing a large piece of equipment such as a tank, involves shipping, dismantling, producing new pieces, and placing everything back together. As crazy as it might sound, it simply costs less to leave the vehicle where it is. However, the United States Army is now finding a fix with the use of 3D Printers and cold spray additive manufacturing.

In 2017, a mission to find a way to bring home tanks and other war materials back from war ridden countries began. Their mission was a success and it was found that with the use of cold spray 3D Printing, a Bradley Fighting Vehicle could be repaired. The repair in question was the Bradley’s damaged gun and mounts. Standard replacement of this part alone is an estimated $25,000. With cold spray additive manufacturing, the costs went down substantially to just $1000 to repair the piece. The army employs countless Bradley vehicles across the world, so cutting costs by that amount is a substantial help to the overall defense budget.

United States Army Bradley Tank

Cold spray additive manufacturing is a remarkable way to form and repair a variety of different 3D Printed models as well as items we use every day. Large scale projects, such as the Bradley vehicle above, can cost countries a lot of money. The costs to ship the product back to its country of origin and repair the damage can be astronomical and not very economical. However, cold spary additive manufacturing opens up repair doors that would not have previously been an option. We may soon see a time where a tank can be damaged and repaired right on the battlefield. Where that may be a future idea, it still proves that the implications of cold spray additive manufacturing and 3D Printing, in general have been influential in countless industries with much more growth to be found.

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