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US Navy Selects Cold Spray Metal 3D Printing for 2022 REPTEX

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VRC Metal Systems, an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) based in South Dakota, announced that the company has been selected to participate in the 2022 REPTEX hosted by the U.S. Navy. REPTEX is an event meant to showcase new technologies and products relevant to naval operations, and will take place at Naval Base Ventura County in Port Hueneme, CA, August 22-September 2, 2022.

Cold Spray on the High Seas

Sponsored by the Naval Sea Systems Command Technology Office (NAVSEA 05T), the event will be held aboard the ex-US Paul F. Foster, DD 964, based in Port Hueneme and currently serving as the U.S. Navy’s Self Defense Test Ship (SDTS). The SDTS is exactly what the label implies: a ship, taken out of combat use and refurbished, used by the U.S. Navy to showcase, test, and fine-tune new technological applications.

Image courtesy of VRC Metal Systems

In a press release, the CEO & co-founder of VRC Metal Systems, Rob Hrabe, commented, “VRC is committed to the success of the US Navy in implementing cold spray technology. Being selected to participate in the Navy’s REPTEX program demonstrates the Navy’s confidence in VRC equipment and expertise.”

Cold spray is the technical process upon which VRC’s metal additive manufacturing (AM) systems rest. A coating deposition technique, cold spray involves use of a gas-powered nozzle to adhere a given material to a particular surface. It is one of the fastest AM processes, and is especially useful for making repairs to metal parts, and in particular, repairs related to corrosion.

Image courtesy of US Navy

Owing to its rapidity, as well as its relative portability compared to most other AM techniques, cold spray seems to be catching on with the military above all other sectors. Moreover, all of the aforementioned advantages to cold spray would seem to make the technology particularly compatible for use in naval applications.

U.S. Navy Sails Toward Metal 3D Printing

If that’s the case, now would be the perfect time for VRC to gain traction with the U.S. Navy. Since the start of the Pentagon’s increasing interest in AM, sometime around the early 2010s, the Navy has generally lagged behind the other branches in terms of its adoption of AM techniques. As I’ve mentioned in multiple posts this year, that seems to have changed.

This summer, in addition to the REPTEX, the Navy also tested AM on a ship that was at sea for the first time — the USS Essex — during the world’s largest maritime war games exercise, the RIMPAC. At REPTEX, VRC will also have the benefit of being able to demonstrate the capabilities of its machines one-one-one with naval personnel. The SDTS is even engineered to operate by remote control, which will give companies like VRC the opportunity to exhibit their technology at sea.

Finally, it’s worth reiterating that advancements in naval AM applications will have implications for maritime AM, more broadly. Increased use of AM techniques for maritime purposes could, in turn, be critical for the entire industry, given the potential to restructure supply chains such that as much AM infrastructure as possible is located near major seaports.

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