VRC Metal Systems is moving at light speed to bring their pioneering cold spray technology to the commercial realm
The high speed minds behind VRC Metal Systems aren’t just pushing the limits of technology, they are disrupting the concept of responsiveness. As necessary, impressive, and revolutionary as their work on cold spray technology is, they’ve also taken the lead in defining what it means to be an industry-shaping partner with a focus on customer satisfaction that’s unparalleled in the industry.
Co-founded in 2013 by cold spray innovator Rob Hrabe and Dr. Christian Widener, the global leader in the technology is also the only company providing full cradle-to-grave services. In addition to R&D they provide engineering, design, advanced additive manufacturing, robotics, integration and service repair, production manufacturing, and process development. “That gives our customers many options to implement the technology without a lot of the pain,” Hrabe recently told BOSS.
Simply stated, cold spray is a high energy solid-state coating and powder consolidation process used to fuse metals, metal alloys, and metal blends. Metal particulates speed through a supersonic nozzle, propelled by gas, usually nitrogen or helium, which causes the particles to accelerate to Mach 2-3 speed, which translates to approximately 1,534 to 2,301 miles an hour.
“That’s basically the speed of a rifle bullet. If you shoot a rifle bullet into a really thick metal plate, it'll embed in the surface and weld itself in there,” Hrabe explained. “We're doing the same thing with small, fine powder. It’s like spray-on welding; it forces the metal together with kinetic energy instead of melting it.”
Much of the design work takes place at VRC’s South Dakota headquarters, and coatings services are provided in South Dakota as well as in California, Massachusetts, North Dakota, and Virginia. The firm also has offices in Washington state. “Because our forte is mobility and portability, we make our equipment suitable for shop use, field use, and industrial use in many different settings,” he added.
Their breakthrough handheld and portable systems for high pressure applications are vastly expanding the environments where the sophisticated tech can be used. Their intellectual property includes the above-mentioned portable systems and an array of process and equipment patents, which have been integral in carving out a unique market niche. VRC is also active in international cold spray venues and standards development.
For several years, VRC has been an integral partner of the Department of Defense, applying their patented metal repair techniques and systems to all manner of critical projects. Now they are blazing into the commercial marketplace, bringing their science and sensibilities to the Aerospace, Maritime, Energy to include Oil/Gas, Nuclear, and Wind sectors.
The DoD has adopted the technology and is currently in the process of implementing it. Hrabe expects work with the agency to continue to grow quickly but sees more robust growth potential in the commercial, aerospace, maritime, and energy sectors.
“It all comes down to new ideas or methodologies that are disruptive,” said Tim Gellerson, chief strategy officer and president of VRC’s aerospace division. “Our approach to cold spray is going to disrupt much of the conventional thinking about thermal sprays and the art of the possible. Our job is to match that with market need, and that's where innovation comes in.”
There are barriers to overcome anytime new technology is introduced, particularly because the technology being replaced is familiar and already integrated. From a client perspective, the faster and easier an implementation is, adoption becomes infinitely more palatable than trying to develop their own solutions. “The easier you can make it for the customer to get that done, the more successful you'll be,” Hrabe stressed.
An aspect of that ease is the variety of systems they’ve developed for a wide scope of work. There’s a large enclosed system specifically ruggedized for use in shipyards and airfields that can be towed, carried by forklift, or rigged on a ship. There’s also a trailer system that can be easily moved and connected in the field.
Their self-supporting portable cold spray system, C.A.M.P. Site, includes its own power generator, compressor, wet dust collector, 6-axis robot, deployable powder feeder and heater, and a 500-pound capacity articulated jib crane with crane hoist. “You could drop this thing in the middle of the desert, fire up the generator and start cold spraying,” Hrabe said. “We give our customers the option for us to do their field service, or for the customer to be able to do it, or some combination thereof.”
With that fast growth comes the need for updates to their research and development to meet customer requirements. As Gellerson put it, “We always have to be bigger, better, and faster to make sure that we are the best of the best when it comes to additive manufacturing and cold spray.”
Competitors aspiring to catch up to these supersonic innovators will have to open up the throttle in a big way.
VRC Metal Systems manufactures high tech metal working equipment and automation systems that are revolutionizing the way parts are manufactured and repaired today. Our flagship product, the VRC Gen IV, is a high-pressure cold spray system that can spray metal powders to coat or build up parts for repair, advanced coatings, and additive manufacturing. Cold spray technology accelerates metal powders to supersonic speeds to create the highest strength metal based spray coatings available today.
600 N Ellsworth Rd
Box Elder, SD 57719
Phone Number: 605.716.0061
Homepage Link: https://vrcmetalsystems.com/