Industry News

September 2023

ITSA and AWS C2 Committee Members Gather in Buffalo 

More than 25 ITSA members and guests gathered in Buffalo, N.Y., on August 9 for the ITSA Annual Business Meeting. The gathering marked the first in-person meeting for the association since 2019.

The meeting was called to order by ITSA Chair Mollie Blasingame. After calling on the membership to approve previous meeting minutes, Blasingame introduced American Welding Society (AWS) C2 Committee on Thermal Spraying Chair Daniel C. Hayden. Hayden provided a recap of the committee meeting that occurred on August 8 in Buffalo. 

It was a great idea to have the AWS C2 Committee on Thermal Spraying hold their meeting at the same time as the ITSA meeting. Dan Hayden’s presentation on the C2 Committee highlighted the crossover appeal. ITSA members are all either end users, applicators, OEMs, or consultants, and C2 Committee documents are the go-to standards for the thermal spray market. I hope it generated some interest in more ITSA members attending the next C2 event,” said Blasingame.

Blasingame then led meeting attendees into discussions on ITSA’s mission, membership, scholarships, and future meetings. She also presented a plaque of appreciation to Past Chair Ana Duminie.

Also, during the meeting, Past ITSA Chair David Lee discussed the final investigative report on the fatal 2020 propylene explosion at the Watson Grinding facility in Houston, Tex. Lee served as a consultant and provided feedback on the investigation.

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ITSA meeting participants are seen at EWI’s Cold Spray Center of Excellence at Buffalo Manufacturing Works. 
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ITSA Chair Mollie Blasingame (left) presented a plaque of appreciation to Past Chair Ana Duminie.

Following the meeting and lunch, members toured the Cold Spray Center of Excellence at Buffalo Manufacturing Works operated by EWI. The tour kicked off with a presentation on the historic rise and fall of manufacturing in the city of Buffalo and how EWI’s facility is currently revitalizing the region’s industry. Attendees also had the opportunity to tour and learn about different areas of the facility including the automation workshop, cold spray system stations, and data science department.

Following the tour, presentations were given by Victor Champagne, team lead, U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (CCDC) Army Research Laboratory; Bradley Richards, cofounder and CEO, Powders on Demand; and Samuel Bedard, applications engineer, EWI.

ITSA’s planning committee will now begin discussing plans for the 2024 meeting. — Cindy Weihl, editor

AWS Mourns the Passing of 2023 President Dennis K. Eck

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Dennis K. Eck, a distinguished AWS member for more than 30 years, most recently served as AWS president.

AWS and the welding community mourn the sudden passing of 2023 AWS President Dennis K. Eck. 

Eck was a distinguished AWS member for more than 30 years, working within the AWS Houston Section and taking on increasingly significant roles within the Society. He was the AWS Houston Section chair from 1989–2021, AWS director-at-large from 2016–2018, AWS vice president from 2019–2022, and was inducted as the 2023 AWS president earlier this year. He received several AWS honors and awards throughout his three decades of involvement with the Society.

Eck was an enthusiastic advocate for mentoring and leading our youth toward a bright future within the industry. His focus as AWS president was on generational differences and preserving institutional knowledge by connecting the generations in new and unique ways. He was actively involved with SkillsUSA, AG Mechanics San Antonio and Houston, and the Craft Training Center in Corpus Christi, Tex. He and his wife Robin also established the Dennis K. & Robin Eck – Houston Section Scholarship through the AWS Foundation, which provides $5,250 in scholarships each year.

CSB Releases Final Report

The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB), Washington, D.C., released its final investigation report on the 2020 propylene release and explosion at the Watson Grinding facility in Houston, Tex., that fatally injured two workers and a nearby resident and damaged hundreds of neighboring homes. The CSB’s final report highlights two key safety issues: the lack of a comprehensive process safety management program at the Watson Grinding facility to manage the risks of its thermal spray coating operations and an ineffective emergency response plan.

CSB Chair Steve Owens said, “Our investigation found that Watson Grinding did not have an effective program in place to assess potential hazards in its propylene process and did not have a mechanical integrity program or written operating procedures. This tragic incident was made even worse due to the lack of emergency response training for employees at the facility.”

The incident occurred shortly before 4:30 a.m. on January 24, 2020, when an accidental release of propylene accumulated and exploded inside the building at Watson Grinding. The CSB found that prior to the incident, a hose disconnected from its fitting inside a coating booth and released propylene, a flammable hydrocarbon vapor, which accumulated inside the coating building at Watson Grinding. By the time employees arrived at the facility early on the morning of January 24, an explosive concentration of propylene had formed inside the building. When one of the employees entered the building and turned on the lights, the flammable vapor ignited, triggering the explosion.

The CSB determined that the cause of the accidental release of propylene was a degraded and poorly crimped rubber welding hose that disconnected from its fitting inside a coating booth combined with: 1) not closing the manual shutoff valve at the propylene storage tank at the conclusion of production operations the previous workday, and 2) the inoperative automated gas detection alarm, exhaust fan startup, and gas shutoff system.

Investigator-in-Charge Benjamin Schrader said, “As highlighted in our safety issues, Watson Grinding did not effectively train its workers on the hazards of propylene, and on the mornings of the incident, these workers were not warned to evacuate, instructed to prevent others from entering the area, or informed to contact emergency responders when the propylene release was suspected.”

As a result of its findings, the CSB is issuing recommendations to encourage the companies and standard-setting bodies to share information from the CSB’s report in addition to existing industry guidelines that emphasize the need for an effective process safety management system. The report can be accessed at

Boeing Begins Construction on New Coatings Facility

Boeing has begun construction on a new facility in St. Louis, Mo., that will house postassembly phases of future military aircraft production.

The new Advanced Coatings Center will be a secure facility operated by Phantom Works, which is Boeing Defense, Space & Security’s proprietary research, development, and prototyping division. The construction phase of the 47,500-sq-ft facility is underway, and the center is expected to be operational in 2025. 

The Boeing Phantom Works Advanced Coatings Center in St. Louis will house postassembly phases of future military aircraft production (Boeing artist’s concept).

“As we pivot toward future programs, Boeing’s defense business is in the midst of one of the most significant investments in new facilities in our history,” said Steve Nordlund, Air Dominance vice president and general manager and St. Louis senior site executive. “This investment is not only to win new future franchise programs but, more importantly, to enable the United States to outpace increasingly capable and aggressive adversaries. We are revolutionizing how aircraft are designed, built, and delivered because the threats demand it.”

The Advanced Coatings Center is the third new facility revealed as part of Phantom Works’ multibillion-dollar Production System of the Future effort, enabling Boeing to scale a platform-agnostic, modular, and flexible digital production system across future defense programs. Additional new factories supporting various phases of production are planned for the coming years.

Curtiss-Wright’s Keronite Business Secures Nadcap Approval Certification

Curtiss-Wright Surface Technologies Division, Paramus, N.J., announced that its Keronite business, a provider of plasma electrolytic oxidation applications, has successfully secured National Aerospace and Defense Contractors Accreditation Program (Nadcap) accreditation for chemical processing at its Greenwood, Ind., facility.

Nadcap is the aerospace industry’s global accreditation program designed to recognize special processors that integrate and maintain stringent quality system and process control standards. Pursuit of Nadcap accreditation demonstrates an organization’s desire to mitigate customer risk and promote product safety. Keronite joins more than 45 other Curtiss-Wright Surface Technologies business units that are Nadcap-accredited.

“Curtiss-Wright is committed to delivering the best possible technologies and breakthrough applications while providing our customers an opportunity to utilize unique surface treatment applications offering corrosion protection, wear resistance, and other properties, such as thermal and electrical insulation. This recognition underscores the quality of our processes within the industry while also creating more opportunities to expand our footprint in the aerospace sector,” said David Rivellini, senior vice president and general manager, Curtiss-Wright Surface Technologies Division.

Phase3D to Develop Cold Spray 3D Printing Quality Inspection System

Phase3D, Chicago, Ill., has been awarded a two-year, $1.25 million contract from the Air Force Research Laboratory to develop a quality inspection system for cold spray additive manufacturing.

The company, a start-up focused on in-situ inspection for powder-based additive manufacturing, will install the cold spray 3D printing inspection technology at Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota. Its goal is to validate a working concept of structured light measurements on cold spray additive manufacturing and demonstrate the full solution for real-time quality monitoring to support recladding, repair, and reinforcement.

The company has also been tasked with providing high-quality, objective data on the process. It will do this by adapting its flagship Fringe in-situ inspection system to monitor cold spray additive manufacturing deposits and produce high-quality quantitative height maps for the metal powder deposited onto the substrate. It will also use the project to provide a basis for the creation of specifications and printing guidelines for cold spray additive manufacturing.

ORNL Coating Could Reduce Friction and Wear

Scientists at the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), Oak Ridge, Tenn., have invented a coating that could reduce friction in common load-bearing systems with moving parts, from vehicle drive trains to wind and hydroelectric turbines. The coating reduces by at least a hundredfold the friction of steel rubbing on steel. The novel coating could help enhance a U.S. economy that each year loses more than $1 trillion to friction and wear — equivalent to 5% of the gross national product.

Jun Qu of ORNL shows stainless steel disks before (silver) and after (black) coating with carbon nanotubes that provide superlubricity. (Photo courtesy of Carlos Jones/ORNL, U.S. Department of Energy.)

“When components are sliding past each other, there’s friction and wear,” said Jun Qu, leader of ORNL’s Surface Engineering and Tribology group. Tribology, from the Greek word for rubbing, is the science and technology of interacting surfaces, such as gears and bearings, in relative motion. “If we reduce friction, we can reduce energy consumption. If we reduce wear, we can elongate the life span of the system for better durability and reliability.”

With ORNL colleagues Chanaka Kumara and Michael Lance, Qu led a study published in Materials Today Nano about a coating composed of carbon nanotubes that imparts superlubricity to sliding parts. Superlubricity is the property of showing virtually no resistance to sliding; its hallmark is a coefficient of friction less than 0.01. The ORNL coating reduced the coefficient of friction far below the cutoff for superlubricity, to as low as 0.001.

The work described in the paper, titled “Macroscale Superlubricity by a Sacrificial Carbon Nanotube Coating,” was a finalist for an R&D 100 award in 2020. The researchers have applied for a patent of their novel superlubricity coating.

“Next, we hope to partner with industry to write a joint proposal to DOE to test, mature, and license the technology,” Qu said. “In a decade, we’d like to see improved high-performance vehicles and power plants with less energy lost to friction and wear.”

WPI Researchers Improve Lithium-Ion Battery Electrode Production

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), Worcester, Mass., has developed a solvent-free process to manufacture lithium-ion battery electrodes that are greener, cheaper, and charge faster than electrodes currently on the market, an advance that could improve the manufacturing of batteries for electric vehicles.

“Current lithium-ion batteries charge too slowly, and manufacturers typically use flammable, toxic, and expensive solvents that increase the time and cost of production,” said Yan Wang, the research team leader and WPI William B. Smith dean’s professor in the department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering. “Our solvent-free manufacturing process addresses those disadvantages by producing electrodes that charge to 78% of capacity in 20 minutes, all without the need for solvents, slurries, and long production times.”

An artist rendering of what the ASI Turning Center of Excellence could look like after expansion.
WPI researcher Yan Wang led a team in developing a new manufacturing method to addresses a challenge facing the electric vehicle industry.

The researchers’ process, reported in the journal Joule, involved mixing dry powders that were electrically charged so they adhered when sprayed onto a metal substrate. The dry-coated electrodes were then heated and compressed with rollers. Skipping the conventional drying and solvent-recovery process cut battery manufacturing energy use by an estimated 47%, the researchers reported.

WPI has filed a patent application on the manufacturing technology developed by the research team.

Fisher Barton Expands Turning Center of Excellence

Fisher Barton, Watertown, Wis., has selected MSI General Corp., Oconomowoc, Wis., for the design and construction of its new industrial building and site development for the Accurate Specialties Inc. (ASI) Turning Center of Excellence, Waukesha, Wis. ASI, a division of Fisher Barton, is a manufacturer of bronze gear blanks for power transmission and agricultural applications.

Scott Hoffman, CEO of Fisher Barton, stated, “We are expanding our capacity with this high-speed, fully automated, 56,000-sq-ft facility adjacent to our Accurate Specialties division to offer our customers additional manufacturing capabilities for close tolerance components, shafts, and bearings that compliment Fisher Barton’s already robust offering.”