The resulting thermal and mechanical properties of atmospheric plasma sprayed coatings, are strongly dependent on the particle in-flight characteristics, which in turn depend on the spray gun variables. In industrial production the spray gun variables are set to constant values and closed loop controlled. However, calibrations of the variable levels are regularly performed and variations within specified tolerance limits allowed, which cause variations in the particle in-flight characteristics. The objective of this work was to investigate how these calibration variations affect the particle in-flight characteristics and the final coating properties. The investigation was performed using three-dimensional computational fluid dynamics simulations. The process model correspond to the SM-F-100 Connex gun, spraying ZrO2 for thermal barrier coating applications. Particle in-flight characteristics were calculated using a stochastic discrete particle model. Validation of the model was performed using the optical DPV2000 system, and fair agreement was found. Voltage, arc current, primary, secondary and carrier gas flow rates were systematically varied one factor at a time and their separate effects on the particle in-flight characteristics evaluated. The most important variables influencing the particle characteristics were current and voltage. Final simulations considering extreme cases enabled determination of the particle characteristics limiting conditions due to tolerance variations. Coating microstructure evaluations of two of these extreme cases revealed that the total porosity could vary up to 4% due to tolerance variations.

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