Thermal Spray Technology - Frequently Asked Questions

Topics Covered

What is thermal spraying?

How are thermal spray processes classified?

What processes are classified as thermal spray processes?

What materials can be thermally sprayed?

What forms of materials can be used for thermal spraying?

What is thermal spraying used for?

What are some common applications of thermally sprayed coatings?

What advantages does thermal spraying have over other coating technologies?

How are thermally sprayed coatings created/built up?

Due to the high processing temperatures, is oxidation a problem?

Are thermal stresses in thermally sprayed coatings a problem?

How thick are typical coatings deposited by thermal spray processes?

What factors influence bond strength?

What is thermal spraying?

Thermal spray processes involve delivery of material usually within the size range of 5 to 200 microns at a high speed towards a surface. Historically this material took the form of liquid droplets that were heated by a flame and transported within a flame towards a surface where the splashing phenomena and subsequent solidification were able to create a holding strength for the deposited droplets and the resulting coating. Today, the size of material transported has reached the bottom limit of the particle size range and may not necessarily be in a molten state. Furthermore, the form of material fed into a thermal spray source may not necessarily only contain powder.

How are thermal spray processes classified?

Initially thermal spray processes were classified according to the type of heat source. For example, processes were classed as flame, plasma or detonation gun spraying. Modifications to the heat source environment further classed these materials into the precise category by which these processes are known today.

What processes are classified as thermal spray processes?

         Cold spraying

         Flame spraying

         High velocity oxy fuel (HVOF) spraying

         Arc spraying

         Plasma spraying

         Detonation gun

What materials can be thermally sprayed?

Materials that can be plastically formed either in the solid or liquid state can be deposited. Where heating is involved, only those materials that remain stable upon heating can be sprayed. Instability may refer to oxidation or decomposition of the material. These materials may, however, be deposited in the form of composites where a secondary material is used to protect the unstable or reactive material. Spraying into a special atmosphere, use of a metallic or polymeric binder to form a composite, or encapsulation of these powder are means of protecting the thermally sensitive materials.

What forms of materials can be used for thermal spraying?

Thermal spray feedstocks can take several forms which are suited to various materials such as:

         Powder - plastic, metal, composite, ceramic

         Wire - metal, composite

         Rods - ceramic

         Liquid

What is thermal spraying used for?

Thermal spraying is used to produce flattened particles, spherical particles (either hollow or dense) and coatings. The most common application is the production of coatings. Coatings can be deposited to such dimensions that freeforms can be produced.

What are some common applications of thermally sprayed coatings?

         Wear and abrasion resistance coatings - mining

         Biomedical - orthopaedics (e.g. hydroxyapatite), dentistry, cancer therapy

         Thermal barrier coatings - combustion engines

         Anticorrosion coatings - infrastructure and marine environments

         Abradables - aviation industry

         Ink transfer rolls - printing industry

         Reclamation of worn components

         Art - glass colouring, bronze application

         Electronic applications

What advantages does thermal spraying have over other coating technologies?

         Able to deposit high melting temperature materials

         Fast coating deposition

         No volatile organics are employed as is the case with many paints

         Fast heating and cooling produced inequilibrium phases and may avoid decomposition of certain materials.

How are thermally sprayed coatings created/built up?

A molten particle or a particle able to deform plastically is transported at high speeds within a heat source towards a surface upon which deposition occurs. The droplet or particle undergoes spreading and may create a chemical bond with the underlying surface. With materials that are not able to produce a chemical bond, the substrate is roughened to create a mechanical bond. Each droplet or particle impacts a roughened surface and mechanically interlocks with the asperities on the underlying surface.

Due to the high processing temperatures, is oxidation a problem?

Oxidation can be overcome by the use of a shroud placed onto the torch or by placing the thermal spray process into a chamber with a controlled atmosphere. With plasma spraying, the controlled atmosphere most commonly is a vacuum.

Are thermal stresses in thermally sprayed coatings a problem?

The residual stress remaining within the deposited particles mostly influences ceramic coatings. The cooling of such materials needs to be optimised to avoid excessive residual stress levels.

How thick are typical coatings deposited by thermal spray processes?

The coatings thickness is dictated by the size of the feedstock for powders, the size of the droplets for arc spraying or the size of the atomised droplets created by the liquid spray process. Typically, flattening of the material by factor of three of the particle size can be expected. To create thin coatings one requires a very fine particle size, usually at sizes between 10 and 20 microns. It is not uncommon to find coatings as thin as 30 microns. Liquid spray processing is able to decrease the thickness even more

What factors influence bond strength?

Bond strength is dictated by the speed of the particle, temperature within the thermal spray plume, substrate roughness and reaction with the underlying substrate. Bond strength up to 60-80 MPa is not uncommon for thermally sprayed materials. The bonding ability is material and process dependant.

 

Primary author: Dr. Karlis Gross

 

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