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NEWS | April 8, 2024

TRFB's first cold spray success

By MC2 Sarah Christoph Trident Refit Facility, Bangor

Welding, electroplating, and epoxy repairs are all effective and proven methods used in-house at Trident Refit Facility, Bangor (TRFB) to incrementally repair and overhaul some of the U.S. Navy’s ballistic missile submarines. The use of these methods has been proven to be effective, and are all accomplished while under stringent maintenance schedules, providing the U.S. with resilient and well-maintained submarines. But what happens when these methods are not ideal to use during a repair process? A group of forward-thinking individuals at TRFB banded together to establish an effective, new procedure to add to TRFB’s ever-growing tool belt: An internal cold spray process.

“Cold spray is an additive manufacturing process that heats up a metal particle and sends it at a really high velocity into a component to fill in any fill in pre-machined areas, dents, or damage,” said Christy Matson, an engineer at TRFB’s inside machine engineering department. “It is a little confusing because it is not actually cold, it is heated. It is called cold spray because the spray going into the component is not hot enough to melt the part itself. So, if the other methods we use to repair damage on a component are deemed inadequate, cold spray might be used instead.”

Cold spray has been used by TRFB in the past, but never in-house. Components that needed cold spray work accomplished were sent out to a different facility to be completed. Because the in-house procedure was new to TRFB, a Qualified Spray Procedure (QSP) needed to be created, and many questions and concerns regarding the process needed to be discussed.

“We managed to develop a QSP, address safety, engineering and logistical concerns, and spray a mock-up, all while juggling our primary jobs,” said Senior Chief Charles Laymon, the Cold Spray Project Manager at TRFB. “Everyone has been working on it in their spare time. Communicating with a team and managing a large group of individuals who all have competing priorities is never easy. It is very satisfying when you get to a turning point or when you make a big step in the process. This was a series of large steps and many challenges.”

But, as a testament to the dedication of TRFB’s team members, the cold spray process was planned, and the first test was a success.

“I would consider this success to be significant for TRFB,” said Laymon. “In-house use can make our process more efficient. We completed our first cold spray job, and then sent out something we call a coupon for testing purposes. Coupons are things like mock-ups, tensile tests, dynamic wear tests, bond button tests, and corrosion tests. Due to cost and logistics, we still do testing elsewhere rather than at TRFB, but the actual cold spray process was accomplished within the walls of TRFB. The testing deemed the spray application a success, and now we are considering cold spray to be another option we can utilize.”

Utilizing cold spray opens another door in maximizing the process of maintaining ballistic missile submarines. The use of localized cold spray at TRFB assists the Navy’s strategic deterrent mission.

“TRFB is an intermediate maintenance facility focused on using proven methods that help get our submarines back out to sea” said Laymon. “We have been trying to get cold spray up and running for a while now so I am excited for the accomplishment and to be a part of it. It could not have been accomplished without all of the people who took part in it.”

With a cold spray procedure greenlit at TRFB, team members are buzzing with ideas to get work accomplished.  

“I think the team is very excited to get this started,” said Matson. “The cold spray process is all very new and the team is learning a lot. People are excited. Everyone has an idea but doesn’t understand how the technology may or may not work for that idea. But ideas are where things start!”