RICHLAND, Wash. – Researchers at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory made a key advance in developing a fully automated system that fights corrosion and wear and tear in even the hardest-to-reach places.
The Electrospark Deposition, or ESD, system is a fully automated apparatus that transfers a very low heat, controlled weld of a metallic coating onto surfaces that may become corroded. It can be operated with virtually no waste stream by someone with minimal training, saving time and money – particularly in industries where large quantities of repairs are needed, such as aviation and aerospace, military hardware, medical, timber, automotive and food processing.
PNNL recently licensed the ESD automation technology to Advanced Surfaces and Process Inc. of Cornelius, Oregon.
The PNNL-developed control system, when integrated with ASAP's ESD equipment, utilizes a sensor that measures the applied current during the coating or repair process. When done by hand, a sensor signals when the proper amount of pressure is being used, allowing the operator to adjust his pressure. With the automated system, a computer monitors the spark current, which indicates the contact force, and adjusts the equipment to maintain the optimum contact force. Users of the system can align the part, start the computer, and return when the application is completed.
"PNNL has always seen a huge market potential for ESD and is just now discovering the many varied applications," said Jeff Bailey, the ESD technology lead. "In fact, we're finding that due to the high costs for ever-increasing environmental remediation issues in chrome plating repairs, the automated system would be particularly beneficial in repairing jet engine turbines, landing gear hydraulics and tactical vehicles. The system also could realize cost savings in the automotive industry by applying a protective coating to a wide variety of car parts and it can improve the feasibility of performing ESD operations that are not viable candidates for manual application."
"The utilization of the PNNL Force Control Technology for automated ESD undoubtedly will contribute to the successful commercialization of ESD in numerous industries, especially in non-line-of-sight (NLOS) applications," said John Kelley, vice president of research and development at ASAP.
ASAP is the largest commercial provider of the advanced ESD equipment in the United States and supplies state-of-the-art ESD equipment to the U.S. Army, Navy and Air Force.
PNNL (http://www.pnl.gov) is a DOE Office of Science laboratory that solves complex problems in energy, national security, the environment and life sciences by advancing the understanding of physics, chemistry, biology and computation. PNNL employs 3,900, has a $650 million annual budget, and has been managed by Ohio-based Battelle since the lab's inception in 1965.
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