IndustrySearch spoke to Kevin Healey, Technical Sales Director from Metal Spray Supplies Australia about the importance of metal spraying. What is it? What are its applications? And where would we be without it?
IndustrySearch: Can you give us an overview of what metal spraying is?
Kevin Healey: The metal/thermal spray process is a coating process used to change the surface properties of a part by adding a layer or layers of material to increase durability, hardness, increase or reduce friction, increase corrosion protection, change electrical properties or even to replace worn or damaged material.
Coating materials can be metallic, ceramic or plastic and substrate materials include metals, glass, plastics, plaster, polystyrene, ceramics and even wood.
The applications of metal spraying are wide and varied, are there any applications that might surprise some people?
The metal spray process is used in every industry and you are surrounded by components that use the process, most people are just not aware of it.
The desire for more efficient and faster motor vehicles is brought about by numerous engine and body parts that are metal sprayed. An aeroplane jet engine has over 100 components that are sprayed; without this process we wouldn’t have the jet engine. And metal sprayed titanium and hydroxyapatite (crushed bone) is applied to medical implant prosthetics i.e. hip and knee joints etc.
Can you provide an example of its use that has led to successful outcomes?
Although there are many I will choose space travel. Many products have been developed over the years and without metal spray, space travel would not have been possible. Multi-layer plasma sprayed ceramic coatings are used to withstand extremely high temperatures e.g. for the insulating tiles on the space shuttle to protect it as it re-enters the earth’s atmosphere.
Why is metal spraying important and where would we be without it?
The development of the metal spray industry over the past hundred or more years has contributed to many everyday items that we take for granted. Without its development we may not have seen the progress that has been made to date and which continues to be made.
Where do you see this technology heading?
Although in existence since the early 1900s, it still remains not as well-known as other coating processes. In my undertaking of nine years of higher education in engineering, the process was mentioned in passing only twice.
If people, engineers in particular, are not aware of its uses and advantages, then how can they use it? New applications and equipment are constantly being researched and developed and as more people become aware of it, the more its uses and applications will be progressed.