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Eye on Innovation: The ‘Coolest’ Team Brings Cold Spray to NNSY

By Kristi Britt, Norfolk Naval Shipyard Public Affairs Specialist | Sept. 10, 2019

NORFOLK NAVAL SHIPYARD, Portsmouth, Va. —

The number one priority for innovative technologies for Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) is bringing cold spray technology to the fleet. With a team effort from Norfolk Naval Shipyard (NNSY) employees and a partnership with Penn State Applied Research Laboratory (ARL), Cold Spray has officially surfaced at America’s Shipyard.

Cold spray is an additive repair process where powdered metal is mechanically bonded to a base material after passing thru a nozzle at supersonic speed via a heated carrier gas.  The cold spray process occurs at significantly lower temperatures than traditional repair methods such as welding and thermal spray.  In respect to shipyard applications, cold spray has the potential to repair components previously deemed beyond capable repair as well as provide more durable repairs for those items previously epoxy/electroplate repaired. 

As a lead in to establishing organic cold spray capabilities here at America’s Shipyard, NNSY collaborated with Penn State ARL to repair a hydraulic actuator for the USS Wyoming.  This is the first time NNSY repaired a component for shipboard use via cold spray.

“I was approached by the USS Wyoming project team with this particular project as they were familiar with my efforts to bring Cold Spray to NNSY.  The hydraulic actuator was unable to be repaired by traditional methods and the lead-time for a replacement was in excess of 10 months from the vendor.”   said Code 265 Submarine Mechanical/Piping Branch Head Daniel Stanley, the Cold Spray Sub-Committee Lead for the NNSY Technology and Innovation (T&I) Lab.

As part of the repair process, two separate trips to Penn State ARL were conducted by NNSY to qualify the process and repair the component.  Shipyard employees were rewarded both with an end product of a repaired part for USS Wyoming as well as a wealth of knowledge to support future cold spray repairs at NNSY.

“During execution of the repair, we learned that the cold spray repair process itself is relatively fast. However you spend a lot of time/planning to get a component ready to spray.  The team spent 2 days getting the part ready, fabricating blanks and programming a robot for what amounted to less than 1 hour of actual cold spray time.  In working with Penn State at their facilities, it gives our team the experience they need and we continue to build upon established relationships.” Said Stanley.

Stanley was introduced to cold spray in 2016 and has been actively involved within the technical community established to bring cold spray technology to the fleet.   A cold spray repair instruction has been approved by NAVSEA allowing each of the public shipyards to implement this technology for repair of shipboard components.

In Jan. 2019, NNSY started the retrofit of an existing thermal spray booth in Bldg. 163 to support cold spray operations.  NNSY Mechanical Group (Code 930) took ownership of the cold spray process as well as the existing NNSY thermal spray process. The group's goal is to have five employees trained to use the cold spray and thermal spray machines. 

“We’re aiming to be fully manned and ready to take on the workflow that would be coming in with this new technology up and running at the shipyard,” said Code 930 Trades Manager Nicholas Allen.

The NNSY cold spray booth is tracking towards a fully operational status as the team prepares for the cold spray vendor to install additional equipment such as a robotic arm(s), rotary table(s) and other support equipment in the coming month. At the time in which the cold spray booth is up and running, NNSY initially anticipates spraying on a weekly basis with the overall goal of spraying on a daily basis once proficient with the execution of the process.

To Stanley and the team, cold spray is an important first step towards bringing innovation to America’s Shipyard. Though cold spray is currently a shop process executed within a booth, NNSY is already involved in the discussions within the technical community to make the technology mobile with the goal of eventually having the ability to executing the cold spray process shipboard.

   “We want to extend our reach across the shipyard and aid everyone who needs our assistance with repairs. We’re here to service the shipyard and the Navy,” said Allen.