IIT Madras Collaborates with GE to establish India’s first ‘Cold Spray’ SMART Lab



Chennai: Indian Institute of Technology Madras has established a ‘Cold Spray’ SMART (Surface Modification and Additive Research Technologies) Laboratory in collaboration with General Electric (GE). This is the first of its kind High-Pressure Cold Spray (HPCS) facility being installed in any academic institute in India.

The laboratory was inaugurated at the campus today (5th April 2019) by Prof. Bhaskar Ramamurthi, Director, IIT Madras, and Mr. Alok Nanda, Chief Executive Officer, GE India Technology Centre, and Chief Technology Officer – GE South Asia, in the presence of faculty, researchers and students from IIT Madras and GE officials. The laboratory consists of a state-of-the-art High-Pressure Cold Spray (HPCS) equipment imported from Plasma Giken, Japan.

The project is funded under ‘Uchchatar Avishkar Yojana’ (UAY) of the Government of India, which is intended to boost collaboration between academia and private sector. The Ministry of Human Resources Development, Government of India, was the key investor along with the Department of Science and Technology (DST), Government of India, IIT Madras, and GE.

Speaking about the importance of this collaboration, Prof Bhaskar Ramamurthi, Director, IIT Madras, said, “This event signifies one more standard in the evolution of the IITs collaborations with the Industry. The UAY has been successful in drawing the attention of both academia and the industry. The reviews have indicated good progress under this scheme and this facility and the initiative are part of a joint collaboration with GE. This has many applications not just for aviation but many other verticals. I hope some startups come out of this as well.”

Highlighting the benefits to the country from this initiative, Mr. Alok Nanda said, “India’s Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) market for civilian aircraft is expected to grow at 7% CAGR from its current value of Rs. 4,800 crore. Currently, 90% of the MRO needs of Indian carriers are done outside India. This program will enable strengthening the MRO ecosystem in the country, help develop advanced technology expertise in the country and skill development of our engineers in additive technology. I am excited about this technology partnership with IIT Madras.”

GE and IIT Madras have been collaborating since last decade on multiple technologies and this project will further strengthen the relationship. The current project augurs well with the Government of India initiatives such as ‘Make in India,’ ‘Skill India’ and promoting Advanced Manufacturing.

The collaboration is also aligned with GE’s aim to develop and nurture knowledge of newer technologies for aero-engines and other industries. As part of the collaborative efforts, IIT (Madras) would develop advanced coatings meeting specifications of aerospace standard.

Prof. M. Kamaraj, Prof G. Sundararajan and Dr. Srinivasa R. Bakshi, faculty in the Department of Metallurgical and Materials Engineering, IIT Madras, are the principle investigators of the project.

Prof. M. Kamaraj said, “Cold spray technology is different from other widely used thermal spray processes in that there is no melting and oxidation of powders. Thus, high quality coatings can be produced. Moreover, the deposition rates are very high leading to less powder wastage and it can be used for additive manufacturing and repair of components.”

Speaking about this collaboration, Mr. Steve Pisani, General Manager-Advanced Services Technologies, GE Aviation, U.S., said, “Our endeavor is to provide impetus to technological development. Scientists at GE are already combining gas dynamic ‘cold spray’ deposition technology with robotics and machine learning to build and repair metal parts using additive manufacturing with greater precision which was never a possibility earlier.”

Dr. Srinivasa Rao Bakshi, Co-principal investigator and Associate Professor said, “High pressure cold spray has huge potential for depositing protective coatings and repair of components. The technology is already being used for repair of worn out components for defense applications.”

Cold Spray is an emerging technology for advanced manufacturing & services and will be utilized to co-develop processes for aero-engine applications. This smart technology has application temperatures that are much lower than other thermal-spray and welding processes, which means the distortion and stresses associated with those repair techniques are avoided; leading to longer asset life.

Cold spray’s advanced capability of achieving little to no oxidation during material build-up, dense coating, and relatively high deposition efficiency makes it viable for applications with heat-sensitive substrates. This is key to its successful exploitation for commercial applications in niche industries such as aerospace and potentially in power.