Thermal Spray Industry

Intro to Thermal Spray
Thermal spraying, like weld cladding or chrome plating, is a coating process. In thermal spray, wire or powder is melted by a flame or electricity and sprayed onto the work piece. During the actual process, the spray torch makes successive passes across the work piece to produce a coating. Like all industrial processes, thermal spraying has its advantages and limitations. These have to be kept in mind in order to take proper advantage of thermal-sprayed coatings. The following are some of the benefits of thermal spray coatings.

  • Reduced Cost. In lieu of making the entire part out of an expensive material, a high-performance material is sprayed onto a low-cost base material.
  • Low Heat Input. Thermal-sprayed coatings do not impact the substrates' microstructure. The coating does not penetrate the base material, i.e., there is no heat-affected zone.
  • Versatility. Almost any metal, ceramic, or plastic can be sprayed.
  • Thickness Range. Coatings can be sprayed from 0.001 in. to more than 1 in. thick, depending on the material and spray system. Coating thickness generally range from 0.001 to 0.100 in.
  • Processing Speed. Spray rates range from 3 to 60 lb/h depending on the material and the spray system.

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The Thermal Spray Process

Flame Spraying
In the flame-spraying process, oxygen and a fuel gas, such as acetylene, propane, or propylene, are fed into a torch and ignited to create a flame. Either powder or wire is injected into the flame where it is melted and sprayed onto the work piece

Flame spraying requires very little equipment and can be readily performed in the factory or on site. The process is fairly inexpensive and is generally used for the application of metal alloys. With relatively low particle velocities, the flame spray process will provide the largest buildups for a given material of any of the thermal spray processes. Low particle velocities also result in coatings that are more porous and oxidized as compared to other thermal spray coatings. Porosity can be advantageous in areas where oil is used as a lubricant. A certain amount of oil is always retained within the coating and thus increases the life of the coating. The oxides increase hardness and enhance wear resistance. With regard to hard facing, self-fluxing alloys are typically applied by flame spraying and then fused onto the component. The fusing process ensures metallurgical bonding to the substrate, high interparticle adhesive strength, and very low porosity levels.

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