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In the future, you might fix metal objects by spraying metal on them at speeds of Mach 4

General Electric is more than just a light bulb maker or the company where Alec Baldwin’s character on 30 Rock came from to annoy the heck out of Tina Fey throughout the show’s duration. It’s a huge conglomerate that makes a wide range of stuff. The company also does a bit of research and development, as evidenced by a new foray into what something called “cold spray.”

Here’s the idea: if you have a metal part that needs fixin’, you can use cold spray to slather the damaged or broken parts with additional layers of metal in order to strengthen it and make it whole again. Does it sound like science fiction to you? Well, didn’t 3D printing seem like that too just a few years ago?

GE has been toying with cold spray for years. Here’s what a press release had to say about the tech back in 2009, when the German government awarded GE an aviation research grant.

“New manufacturing processes are critical in enhancing modern jet engines, as well as managing the costs associated with producing them,” said Bob Schafrik, GE Aviation’s general manager of material and process engineering. “We are thrilled to win the support of the German government. Cold-spray technology is still in its infancy for producing bulk parts. The co-operation of industrial R&D centers with university and technology partners as well as the support from the German government will drive this innovation.” 

The statement also sheds some more light on what the use of cold spray entails.

“The cold-spray process involves depositing powder materials (below the melting point) at super-high velocities (up to Mach 4) onto a surface, to coat or build a solid part. The first components targeted for production are for GE’s large turbofan engines. The process is expected to result in considerable cost savings. “

We fooled ourselves back in the ’80s and ’90s into thinking that we’d be living life Jetsons-style by now. If cold spray can get off the ground, that’d be a start.

Check out a demo of GE’s cold spray tech below, courtesy of YouTube.

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