Thermal spraying: processes and applications

Surface engineering has become increasingly important in UK industry, and thermal spraying is an example of how the surface of a solid material can be restored or improved.

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About thermal spraying

The process of thermal spraying can be used for applying coatings to many different materials to make them more resistant to damage through erosion, wear, corrosion, cavitation, heat or abrasion. It can also be used to provide different surface properties such as high or low friction, chemical resistance, insulation, electrical conductivity and lubricity.

In many industries, thermal spraying is used as the preferred method because it can make new components last longer and also re-engineer or repair components that have become damaged or worn.

How thermal spraying works

Thermal spraying works by projecting small particles onto the surface to be engineered. In surface engineering UK companies such as can offer a wide range of different coatings to their customers. The softened particles are sprayed onto the surface that has been carefully prepared so that they adhere to it and combine to create a continuous coating. The particles flatten on the surface, and successive layers can be built up as required. Thicknesses can vary from 100 to 750 microns, but they may be thicker.

This mechanical bonding process can be used for many materials, including stainless steels, steels, copper, bronze, nickel alloys and ceramics. To discover how these processes can impact the environment, check out the Surface Engineering Association website.

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Common applications for thermal spraying

Many moving machine parts can benefit from the process of thermal spraying. This may be carried out in the initial manufacturing process or as a re-engineering technique. Some of the machines for which the process can be used include aircraft, ships, road vehicles, rail vehicles, valves and pumps. Machine tools, food machinery, electric motors and even quarrying machinery can benefit from thermal spraying. In fact, almost any machinery that can be subjected to erosion, wear or corrosion can be improved by the process of thermal spraying. This is carried out by flame spray, arc spray or other methods by which steels, alloys, nickels and other materials can be coated.

New components that have surfaces enhanced by thermal spraying include drilling bits, hydraulic pistons, rods, gate and ball valves, print rollers, turbine blades, fluid seals and many others.

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