Spray-on plaster

Posted on July 09, 2015 by Yvonne Wirth, Images by Robert Hack, Robert Fuchs

Low-pressure cold spraying is a new process used by mtu in the remanufacturing of engine components.
Magdeburg, Deutschland

It's a kind of magic – low-pressure cold spraying is a new process used by mtu in the remanufacturing of engine components. Two powders, one spray gun, power and compressed-air connections and an extraction system are all you need to get started. And in a few minutes damaged components are restored to their original condition.

If, for example, a used crankcase with surface damage is sent in for reconditioning by a client, in the past it would have been repaired with epoxy resin adhesive among other things. However, that tended to become detached again after a short time. "The low-pressure cold spraying process has the potential to replace the bonding techniques used here," explains Uwe Czerney, design engineer at MTU Reman Technologies in Magdeburg. "It can fill surface damage up to 10 mm deep within a few minutes. And the best thing is, the crankcase itself is hardly heated at all, does not have to dry out and can be further processed immediately afterwards. As well as that, the repair lasts significantly longer."

The supersonic speed at which the powder impacts the damaged surface is sufficient on its own to compact the powder into a solid layer and so repair the damage.

Quickly done

The damaged area is first cleaned and roughened using a fine-grain blasting abrasive. Then the selected powder consisting of various ductile metals and an oxide ceramic is sprayed into the surface damage. "The slightly pre-heated powder impacts the surface at supersonic speed and is compressed into a solid layer by the impact energy," adds Czerney's colleague Ralf Brandt. So that a flawless surface is obtained again after machining, a slight surplus of powder is sprayed on. Afterwards, the surface is machined again just in that area to restore the original shape. The crankcase is gleaming new again.

"Especially with the reconditioning of used engines and components, our reman processes in other words, it means we can offer customers quick and high-quality reconditioning of parts," relates Brandt. "And since all the equipment fits inside a case, it is very portable. So we could carry out repairs on very large components without having to move them several times." The clients react very positively to the contents of the small case too. In the last six months alone, for example, 34 crankcases have been repaired using the process in Magdeburg.

Refilling the two powder containers. The white powder (front) is the blasting abrasive and the grey powder (back) consists of various ductile metals and an oxide ceramic.

Tested under tough conditions

A field trials engine has been in use for more than 6,000 hours on the high-speed trains running on the East Coast Main Line (ECML) in the UK. "We deliberately prepared the crankcase of this engine with surface damage repairs in order to test out the process," Uwe Czerney explains. "To date, all of the repaired areas have lasted." So with just a little powder, a substantial quality improvement compared with established repair methods has been achieved. Another advantage is that the same area could be re-treated using the same method virtually any number of times. "That would only be possible to a limited degree with other reinstatement processes." Apart from that, the speed with which the component is ready for use again is unbeatable. There is only one limitation, however – the low-pressure cold spray process can only be applied to very limited areas.

The principle of low-pressure cold spraying

The principle of low-pressure cold spraying was discovered by chance in Russia in the 1980s and patented. The patent was sold and so became accessible to the European and American markets. In 2011 MTU Reman Technologies in Magdeburg acquired its first kit. The first tests followed in the same year. The technique is now an established part of the reman process.

Point of contact

Uwe Czerney
+49 391 5046 578

Related stories

How do we make... a crankcase?

by Katrin Beck

The crankcase forms has to be able to withstand immense forces. That is why it is built to tolerances of just a few hundredths of a millimeter.

Read more