Repair, Refurbish, and Return to Service Center

South Dakota Mines is the site of the Repair, Refurbish, and Return to Service Applied Research Center (R3S), a South Dakota Governor’s 2010 Research Center focusing on developing and qualifying innovative repair processes that extend the life of military equipment.

The center utilizes technologies developed at the Arbegast Materials Processing and Joining (AMP) Laboratory at Mines. Traditional joining processes weaken materials or even change their properties in undesirable ways. Friction stir (welding without melting), cold spray (accelerating particles to supersonic speed), and laser additive manufacturing (particles injected in laser beams for free-form fabrication) offer engineers and industry professionals next-generation methods for retaining or improving the strengths of materials, extending their lives, and offering cost-savings and reducing waste. Inspiration for the R3S came from a 2007 Aging Aircraft Repair Facility study conducted by Mines in cooperation with Ellsworth Air Force base, several major aerospace and defense companies, Department of Defense (DOD) Logistics Centers, and Rapid City companies HF Webster Engineering and Professional Services and RPM & Associates. The study showed that utilizing these technologies to repair and refurbish b1 bombers and other aircraft would result in $35 million per year in cost savings for the U.S. Air Force. Using these technologies on other military equipment would expand the cost savings across the DOD into the hundreds of millions of dollars, a compelling
cost/benefit analysis that identified needs now being addressed by the R3S Center.

South Dakota Mines collaborates with South Dakota State University, Western Dakota Technical Institute, and other educational partners; industrial partners such as H.F. Webster Inc. and RPM & Associates in Rapid City; and corporations such as Boeing, GE Aviation, General Atomics, Pratt & Whitney, Lockheed Martin, Rolls Royce, and Friction Stir Link to use the processes developed and certified by the center to repair military and civilian equipment.

The R3S provides an opportunity for students and faculty to work with industrial partners in a multi disciplinary setting, creating a truly collaborative environment and giving students hands-on applied research opportunities, first in developing technologies and then working on the real hardware. The R3S is not only a benefit to Mines and its students, but to Rapid City. As the center identifies new technologies, it will need supporting industrial partners to transition to production, creating an opportunity for high-tech spin-off companies in Rapid City.