Plasma spray deposition of polymer coatings
This work investigates the feasibility of the use of plasma spray deposition as a method of producing high performance polymer coatings. The work concentrates on the understanding of the processing of the plasma spraying of polymers, the behaviour of polymeric materials during deposition, and the study of process-structure-properties relationships. Processing modelling for the three stages of the evolution of a polymer deposit (droplet-splat-coating) has been carried out using heat transfer theory. A theoretical model is proposed which consists of three parts: the first part predicts the temperature profile of in-flight particles within plasma jet, the second part predicts the cooling of isolated splats impacting on a substrate and the third part, the heat transfer through the coating thickness. The heat transfer analysis predicts that the development of large temperature gradients within the particle is a general characteristics of polymers during plasma spraying. This causes difficulties for polymer particles to be effectively molten within the plasma jet without decomposition. The theoretical calculations have predicted the effect of processing parameters on the temperature, the degree of melting and decomposition of in-flight polymer particles. With the aid of the model, the conditions for the preparation of high integrity thermoplastic deposits have been established by the control of the plasma arc power, plasma spraying distance, feedstock powder injection, torch traverse speed and feedstock particle size. The optimal deposition conditions are designed to produce effective particle melting in the plasma, extensive flow on impact, and minimal thermal degradation. The experimental work on optimizing processing parameters has confirmed the theoretical predictions. Examination of polymer coating structures reveals that the major defects are unmelted particles, cracks and pores. Five major categories of pores have been classified. It also revealed a significant loss in crystallinity and the presence of a minor metastable phase in the plasma deposited polyamide coatings due to rapid solidification. The study has indicated that the molecular weight of a polymer plays an important role on the splat flow and coating structure. Under non-optimal deposition condition, substantial thermal degradation occurred for which a chain scission mechanism is proposed for plasma deposited polyamide coatings. There are difficulties in achieving cross-linking during plasma spray deposition of thermosets. The theoretical calculations predict that adequate cross-linking is unlikely in a coating deposited under normal conditions, but preheating the substrate to above the cross-linking temperature improves the degree of cross-linking of the coatings substantially. In addition, the coating thickness has a major effect on the degree of cross-linking of thermosets. The calculations also predict that lowering the thermal conductivity by applying a thermal barrier undercoat and using a faster curing agent to reduce time required for the cross-linking reaction can improve the degree of cross-linking of thermoset deposits. The experimental results for the degree of cross-linking and wear resistance confirmed these predictions.