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September 13, 2019

WPI gets $25M to develop battlefield technology

Photo | Courtesy Danielle Cote, a Worcester Polytechnic Institute professor, will lead a research initiative for which the school has received a $25-million federal funding boost.

Worcester Polytechnic Institute has received a $25-million federal grant to develop 3D printing capabilities to include repairing vehicles and other technology for use in combat.

The three-year funding program aims to advance technology capable of avoiding sometimes extensive wait times for new parts in the battlefield. The grant from the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Army Research Laboratory will focus on a technology called cold spray, which can repair metal parts or even make new ones through 3D printing.

The latest award adds to nearly $30 million in previous Army funding for WPI's expertise with materials made from metal powders.

WPI’s research will focus on developing, characterizing, and testing new alloys optimized for use in such cold spray. The technology is appealing to the Army because 3D-printing new parts is cheaper and faster than waiting for traditional new parts, said Danielle Cote, an assistant professor of materials science and engineering, and the director of WPI’s Center for Materials Processing Data, the principal investigator for the project.

"If you’re on a mission and need to move quickly to a safer place, and a critical part on your vehicle breaks, you’re stuck unless you can repair it quickly," Cote said. "That’s where cold spray comes in.”

Cold spray uses a pressurized gas with enough impact that powders adhere to metal upon impact. It can be used with a portable handheld device.

The WPI research team, which includes postdoctoral fellow Kyle Tsaknopoulos, will also work with several subcontractors, including UMass Lowell, the University of California Irvine, Penn State University, and the Worcester technology solution firm Solvus Global. Solvus Global, a WPI spinoff with two recent WPI doctoral recipients in materials science and engineering, will provide and modify powders to the research team's specifications for use in cold spray applications.

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