Refurbishing B-1 Bombers
Last month the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology and Ellsworth Air Force Base signed an agreement formalizing a relationship for collaborative projects such as the application of a revolutionary research technology to refurbish aging bombers. The university's partnership with Ellsworth has already helped return four B-1s to service and could save the military millions of dollars. School of Mines faculty researchers in connection with the Army Research Lab have developed a patent-pending process using "cold spray" technology to deposit aluminum powder in worn and damaged areas of aircraft panels, machining them back to their original dimensions, and returning the bombers to full service. Dr. Christian Widener, an associate professor who is also director of both the school's Repair, Refurbish and Return to Service Center and the Arbegast Materials Processing and Joining Laboratory, leads the development of the cold spray technology at Mines. Brian James, a School of Mines doctoral student who has worked with Widener on the research, is an Air Force Engineering and Technical Services representative at Ellsworth and both James and Dr. Widener joined the program to discuss the "cold spray" technology.