Innovative Process to Save Military Costs

Photo illustration US Army

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Tactical armored vehicles require specialized repair procedures, which is very costly. The US Army developed a “cold spray” process allowing it to refurbish worn steel Bradley 25mm turret gun mounts for $1,000 a repair — a much more attractive option than buying a new mount for more than $25,000 or forcing a supply chain to stockpile replacements.

The applications, range of metals, the possibility of using job shops, and the nature of technology to decrease in cost would seem to make cold spray a process to watch in the collision repair industry.

With funding from the Army’s Manufacturing Technology Program, a team of scientists and engineers worked together to develop a cold spray process to repair costly turret gun mounts on the Army’s M2 Bradley Fighting Vehicle.

The team came from the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Army Research Laboratory, Ground Vehicle Systems Center and the Armaments Center, etc. 

“This project demonstrated the ability to apply new manufacturing technologies to bring components back into service that would otherwise be scrapped during depot maintenance operations,” said Gehn Ferguson, CCDC ARL materials engineer.

“Cold spray is an emerging technology that will enable the Army to reclaim worn components that were previously replaced with new parts. This new technology reduces lifecycle cost and improves systems availability,” Ferguson said.

Cold spray is a process where micron-sized particles are accelerated in a high velocity gas stream through a nozzle and subsequently consolidated on a target surface. The accelerated particles impact and bond to the surface, resulting in a buildup of the sprayed material. Both the sprayed particles and the target surface remain solid during the process.

The Bradley turret gun mount was selected as a candidate for the cold spray repair process because CCDC ARL has extensive experience working with similar steels, and an established process to repair the worn gun mounts didn’t exist. 

While the project initially began as a way to repair gun mounts, the material used in the cold spray process is much more durable, which suggests it could even be used to extend the life of new gun mounts.

Cold spray is also being evaluated for use with other applications, including the ability to repair corrosion on a combat vehicle surfaces and possibly to coat the interior of cannon barrels, according to army.mil.com.