Aircraft repair technologies

A long-time DMTC collaboration involving industry partner RUAG Australia and research partners DST, Swinburne University and RMIT has, since 2009, focused on developing and enhancing surface treatment and repair technologies, namely laser cladding technology (LCT) and supersonic particle deposition (SPD).

LCT is one of a raft of emerging manufacturing technologies that use powder to repair machine components suffering from wear and tear. When fused to the substrate surface, the layer-by-layer build-up yields high quality depositions with high bond strength.

SPD deposits powder to the substrate by ejecting it from a nozzle at high speed. While SPD is currently available to the market, the DMTC project work has improved nozzle design for greater ejection speed and also worked to develop a field-deployable solution.

The successful completion of a series of related technical milestones in 2017-18 has led to a new project agreement to characterise the laser cladding process and specifically its application to ultra-high strength steels, titanium alloys and nickel alloys. Detailed work is now underway to take the structural restoration technology through an exhaustive validation and verification testing program prior to its certification and transfer of the technology to industry for commercialisation.

The team is also continuing to produce more technologically integrated cladding systems in order to rebuild the damaged surface area in a more controlled manner.

For the industrial base, technological advances in these areas can introduce new skills and deliver significant productivity gains. For the Defence customer these advances can reduce the demand for replacement parts that are typically expensive, difficult to source and present a key risk to effective maintenance scheduling.

The establishment of a state-of-the-art sustainment and repair facility at RUAG Australia in Melbourne promises to be an important in-country capability, and would signal a significant return on many years of investment and effort from DMTC, DST and the industry and research partners.