Processing Your Payment

Please do not leave this page until complete. This can take a few moments.

Updated: March 6, 2023 / 2023 Business Leaders of the Year

Business Leaders of the Year: Champagne is the godfather of cold spray

Victor Champagne sits in front of a dark backdrop. Photo | MATT WRIGHT Victor Champagne, additive manufacturing lead for U.S. Army Research Laboratory - Northeast satellite

Victor Champagne has always been a planner. The 60-year-old additive manufacturing lead of the U.S. Army Research Laboratory went into engineering because it was a practical choice.

“Before going into the field of study, I did a search of what the job outlook was,” Champagne said. “I saw the market was growing and a need for engineers, so I said, ‘Ok, it is not going to be a waste of money and time, and afterwards I should have a pretty darn good job.’”

At the time, Champagne debated going to Venice Beach in California to join the famed Gold’s Gym to continue his competitive bodybuilding career. The son of an insurance salesman and nurse in Webster, Champagne began lifting weights as a teenager and started competing in bodybuilding competitions. He even got a job teaching weight lifting. It was the time of Arnold Schwarzenegger. The pictures of men with enormous muscles and golden tans working out on the beach made Schwarzenegger and others of his generation icons. While the lure of the beach and a life as a weight lifter was great, Champagne got the talk about a job, a life, and a career from people close to him, and he did what all great engineers do: made a plan.

“I had enough mature, responsible adults not poo-pooing any ideas, but saying, 'Think of where you want to be in the future,’” Champagne said.

A bio box chart on Victory Champagne.
A bio box chart on Victory Champagne.

Champagne attended Central New England College and studied mechanical engineering. After graduating, he took a job at Acumeter Laboratories Inc. in Marlborough. At the same time, the U.S. Army began the year-long process of hiring him. In 1985, he started working for the government. His first job was to develop an environmentally friendly coating for bombs. So began a long journey for Champagne into exploring new ways to coat and protect the U.S. military’s assets from corrosion.

Since then, Champagne has become the godfather of cold spray, a technique for coating something with materials without using a solvent, by pushing powder at a high velocity through an hour-glass shaped nozzle. When the powdered material, like chrome or other metals, hits the object, it forms a block of material. The process doesn't require any heat or melting, which is how metals were molded since humans began using them.

When Champagne began exploring the possibilities of cold spray, it was deemed a dark art, but he stuck with it, believing in its potential to replace older processes of applying materials like chrome plating, which involved hazardous materials. Champagne’s calculated quest would not be stopped.

“In Vic Champagne’s mind, failure is not an option,” said Diran Apelian, distinguished professor of materials science and engineering and the University of California Irvine. Apelian worked with Champagne when Apelian was a professor at Worcester Polytechnic Institute and one of the founders of Worcester technology firm Solvus Global.

Champagne holds nine U.S. patents on cold-spray devices, nozzles, and methods for repair. The technology has become ubiquitous and a cost-saving process for the U.S. military, which uses it to repair corrosion to ground vehicles, aircrafts, and parts previously deemed unusable. He has fostered an ecosystem of research and creativity at colleges like WPI, MIT in Cambridge, Northeastern University in Boston, and UMass Amherst. He’s created a network of colleagues and mentees, using the U.S. government platform to help connect projects to his work.

“Vic is an active leader in the Army research lab, but he’s not just a researcher,” Apelian said. “He’s more of a business entrepreneur.” That entrepreneurship goes back to planning. Every step for Champagne comes with perspective and outlook. He calculates his time. He rations out his life into pockets and keeps track of his progress. It all goes back to bodybuilding, which he still does.

“I plan it out. Days are planned out. An engineer’s mind,” Champagne said. “Even as a child I used to plan, and bodybuilding especially teaches you that. You start off doing a set of exercises. You keep charts. I have charts from when I was a teenager with weight and progress on them.”

Sign up for Enews

WBJ Web Partners


Order a PDF