General Electric is experimenting with 3D painting or cold spray technology to repair metal parts. This process involves spraying metal powders at high speeds (up to Mach 4) to add material to an existing metal part for repairs. Akin to 3D printing, it can also be used to build a metal component.
3D painting is "part of GE’s expanded additive manufacturing toolkit." According to Anteneh Kebbede, Manager of the Coating and Surface Technologies Lab at the GE Research Center, 3D painting not only offers the capabilities to build metal parts without welding or machining. It also allows for repairs to be made metal parts, extending their operational lifespans, by using materials that "blend in and mirror the properties of the original part itself." Another advantage of 3D painting is it doesn't require heat for the metal powder to bond to the intended part. Hence, its moniker, cold spray.
Currently, GE researchers are refining 3D painting for use in the oil and gas industry so that potentially dangerous repair works for drilling equipment can be carried out safely. In the long run, 3D painting will allow for quick repairs to metal parts to extend their lifespans. It also reduces manufacturing time and material costs. For more information on the new applications for 3D painting, please click this link.