The significance of metal atomization in the wire arc spray process is directly related to the final coating quality produced. Since the early observations of the melting behavior of the wire tips by Steffens, relatively little has been done to further the understanding of the mechanisms involved. The primary atomization of the molten wire tips show existence of sheets and extrusions on both electrodes which are strongly dependent on the system operating parameters. High-speed imaging has been used in this study, for classification of sheet, membrane and extrusion formations as a function of atomizing gas pressure, voltage and current settings. The breakup of metal structures formed on the electrodes is further classified in a manner consistent with established classifications for the break-up of other liquids, e.g. water or fuel. Quantitative descriptions of metal sheet lengths and breakup times are presented. The improved understanding of the metal breakup mechanisms in the wire arc spray process may provide a basis for (a) modification of existing computational codes for prediction of particle sizes and trajectories, and (b) for modifications to torch designs for providing more uniform particle fluxes.

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