TCD researchers work on ‘cold spray’ project for European Space Agency

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19 January 2015 | 0

Engineers from Trinity College Dublin are leading a four-year, €500,000 European Space Agency (ESA) project to fine-tune ‘cold spray,’ (CS) – an environmentally friendly technology for producing component parts made from multiple materials.

CS accelerates powders of materials at supersonic speeds before firing them on top of model structures via a nozzle – like a mould only in reverse. It is currently possible to build coatings or simple geometrical components from a materials such as metals, composites and polymers which set around 1,000 times quicker than any other additive manufacturing or 3D printing technologies allow.

At present, however, CS is expensive and inefficient, so part of the team’s work will be to find ways to drive down costs.

Project leader and Assistant Professor in Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering in Trinity’s School of Engineering Dr Rocco Lupoi said: “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, which was recently ranked as a top 10 breakthrough technology by MIT’s technology review.”

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 technique could also produce 3D components with low manufacturing cost. The concepts being brought forth in this project will specifically target these technological bottlenecks.

Head of the strategic and emerging technologies team at ESA, Prof David Jarvis, said: “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.”

Space science missions and applications that would avail of this technology include the ExoMars, Juice, Euclid, and Solar Orbiter missions, as well as the James Webb Space Telescope, and the International Space Station.

TechCentral Reporters

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