The aim is to improve the surface properties of engineering components used in space science missions and applications, including the ExoMars, Juice, Euclid, and Solar Orbiter missions, the James Webb Space Telescope and the International Space Station. The technology could also improve the surface properties of and create new multi-material objects.

CS accelerates powders of desired materials at high speeds before firing them onto structures via a nozzle. It is currently possible to build coatings or simple geometrical components made out of a wide range of materials (metals, composites, polymers) around 1,000 times more quickly than any other additive manufacturing or 3D printing technologies allow.

The process does not require heat, so there are no heat-affected zones, microstructural changes, or distortions. CS is, however, expensive and inefficient, so part of the Trinity team’s work will seek to drive costs down.

Cost reduction

‘This is the largest ESA research project awarded to Trinity, and we will bring CS to the next level,’ said Dr Rocco Lupoi, Assistant professor in mechanical and manufacturing engineering at Trinity’s School of Engineering, who is leading the project. ‘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.’

With the right level of automation and robotic stage design the technique could also produce 3D components with low manufacturing cost. The concepts being brought forth in this project will specifically target these technological bottlenecks.

‘Once developed, the new form of cold spray manufacturing could unlock new capabilities in coated materials, as well as multi-material combinations currently not possible,’ said head of strategic and emerging technologies team at ESA, Professor David Jarvis.