A €500,000 European Space Agency (ESA) project, led by a team from Trinity College Dublin (TCD), is aiming to fine tune ‘cold spray’ technology that could lead engineering into deep space.
As a technology, cold spray (CS) is used as a means of putting an outer shell on an existing strcutre by creating a powder from whatever material the user wants and then firing it at the object they want covered at supersonic speed building layers-upon-layers at a relatively fast rate.
While similar in concept to a 3D printer, the process is reportedly 1,000 times faster than its more familiar cousin and is much less damaging to the environment as it does not require heat as well as creating a structure that would be less likely to suffer distortions or changes due to excess heat.
However, like any technology in its early stages of development, CS in its current state is prohibitively expensive and inefficient, but the TCD team and its other international contributors will use their new funding to try to bring these factors down significantly.
In doing so, their research could contribute to future development of CS technology to be used in the development of spacecraft components as well as having advanced applications down here on Earth in the form of improvements in surface properties of engineering components and create novel multi-material objects.
Leading the project is TCD’s Dr Rocco Lupoi who said of its potential, “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.”
Space engineering image via Shutterstock