For ageing aircraft platforms in particular, replacement components and systems can be expensive and difficult to source. Long lead times for spare parts can lead to delays in aircraft returning to the flight line.
A DMTC collaboration involving industry partner RUAG Australia and research partners DST Group, SUT and RMIT has focused on developing Laser Cladding Technology (LCT) as a potential maintenance and repair solution. LCT is one of a raft of emerging manufacturing technologies that use powder to repair machine components suffering from wear and tear.
The ‘holy grail’ for this work is ensuring the repaired aerospace components and structures meet the demanding technical airworthiness standards required for Defence aircraft. The hardness and surface finish of the components need to be built back up to their original dimensions.
Another technology solution in this field is SPD, which deposits powder to the substrate by ejecting it from a nozzle at high speed. SPD allows for more localised (on a particle-to-particle basis) heating of the substrate. While SPD is currently available to the market, work is underway to improve nozzle design for greater ejection speed and to develop a field-deployable solution.
The team is also continuing to work on combining cladding technology with digital manufacturing processes, in order to build up the damaged surface area in a more controlled way.