063 – “MELD: A Novel Solid-State Technology for Maintenance”

Author: Nanci Hardwick
Company: MELD Manufacturing Corporation
Phone: (540) 951-3980
Email: nanci.hardwick@meldmanufacturing.com

Challenges continue to emerge in the dynamic environment we operate while engaging our adversaries. The ability for our Nation’s war fighters to maintain and repair vehicles and vessels or print new components on-demand in the field or at sea will not only improve operational efficiency but also reduce the overall cost and logistics overhead associated with holding replacement parts in inventory. Being able to additively manufacture and repair components as close to the battlefield as possible will offer a tremendous strategic advantage with regards to agility, improvements to asset utilization, and a reduction in the risk to life.

MELD is uniquely suited to provide both cost and time effective repairs in theater. MELD represents a portable process able to build, repair, and join metals, including non-fusion weldable materials.

The MELD process has unique benefits. It creates fully-dense products with little-to-no distortion at deposition rates orders of magnitude faster than other metal additive processes. MELD is a solid-state no-melt process, which yields near net shape parts with superior mechanical properties, meaning there is potential for parts to go from the machine to the field. MELD is an open- atmosphere process and is not restricted to vacuum chambers or powder beds, allowing for extreme scalability to make or repair large structures. By the nature of the process, all depositions, repairs, and coatings are fully dense and do not require any additional processing for densification such as sintering or hot isostatic pressing. Deposition rates are extremely high; for example, MELD currently exceeds 20 lbs. per hour in Aluminum. Machines have a low operating cost (comparable to a CNC mill) and can be operated by traditional machinists. Special material is not required. MELD is compatible with a wide array of materials including, but not limited to, stainless steels, titanium alloys, nickel alloys, copper alloys, magnesium alloys, and aluminum alloys, including non-fusion weldable alloys such as 2XXX and 7XXX series. MELD machines work with solid bars of metal, removing the risk of explosion and health hazards inherent in metal powder. However, MELD also works with powder and recent builds with machine shop scrap show the robust power of a fieldable machine to use in theater materials if needed.

Over the last decade, this technology has been matured and repairs have been demonstrated while working with partners, including ONR, NAVSEA, TARDEC, and AIR FORCE, and is now commercially available. Types of repairs demonstrated include cracks, simulated ballistics damage, and corrosion pitting. MELD offers a multifunction technology to those tasked with MRO activities within one piece of equipment, such as the ability to print near-net parts that are difficult or costly to procure, the ability to repair the unrepairable, and the ability to add corrosion/erosion resistant coatings to existing structures.