All you need to know about thermal spraying

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Thermal spraying is a process widely used in industrial manufacturing or during reclamation and re-engineering activities.

It is a versatile procedure that is used to deposit a range of materials on a substrate for applications that include aerospace and biomedical industries, electronic devices, and repairs.

Used in a range of industries

The process can be used to provide resistance to corrosion, wear and abrasion and heat. Although it is often intended to extend the life of newly manufactured components, it can also be used in the re-engineering or repair of parts.

The thermal plasma spray process is a method which provides a coating to surfaces and is used in a variety of industries including the manufacture of semiconductors and the gas and oil business. Heated to high temperatures, the particles used for the spray melt and are deposited on the surface of the component to create a coating.

This is a very versatile process, and can use many different substances to create the plasma spray. This is because of the extreme temperatures of the plasma plume. The plasma produced can reach temperatures in excess of 10000C. Materials used include tungsten carbides, ceramics, nickel-chrome carbides as well as stainless steel or other metals such as copper, zinc or aluminium. The coating can be applied to many other metals as well as some plastics due to the versatility of the process.

Schematic of the thermal spray process (Ref 43)  

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An alternative to plating processes

Thermal spray processes are an alternative to plating processes, heat treatments or indeed weld overlays. Thicker than standard plating processes, you can expect a layer of up to twenty five hundredths of an inch dependent upon which coating material is chosen.

This activity is carried out by specialist companies, and you will find many examples of firms which are experts in the thermal plasma spray process by following the relevant online links.

Other than plasma spray, there are three other thermal spray processes which are widely used. Flame spray has the most history, using a welding torch combined with a high speed air stream. The coating substance can be in powder or wire form. The electric wire arc system is cost effective. Molten droplets of wire are sprayed on via an air stream. Finally, high velocity oxy-fuel (HVOF) combines oxygen with a combustible gas and uses a spray gun which helps to generate higher temperatures.

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