Stainless steel particles have been covered with an alumina shell by the mechanofusion process in order to reinforce stainless steel coatings by uniformly distributed alumina particles. Two stainless steel particle size distributions (PSD) in the range of 65 µm and 120 µm were tested. It was found that the mechanical energy input induced a spherical shape of the final composite particles with a controlled shell thickness (3 µm and 2 µm respectively) without forming new phases that usually take place during the mechanofusion process. The new spherically-shaped composite particles were sprayed in air with a D.C. plasma torch working with an Ar/H2 mixture as plasma forming gas. At mid-flight, two types of composite particles were detected : the first case corresponded to well molten particles where all the alumina shell has flowed to the tail of the particle ; the second case was related to particles which still retained some evidence of the alumina shell uniformly distributed around the stainless steel core. When the mechanofused particles were sprayed onto a cold smooth substrate (stainless steel 316L, Ra<0.05 µm), the resulting splats were extensively fingered and became disk shaped when the substrate surface was preheated over 300°C. However, alumina was either spread exactly on the stainless steel splat corresponding to well molten particles or dispersed in fingers and frozen over the surface of the stainless steel splat corresponding to particles covered by the broken alumina shell. An important effect of fine particle size on in-flight droplet behavior is detected because the center of gravity is more decentred than that of coarse particles influencing the deposit build-up. The composite stainless steel/alumina coatings sprayed on a rough stainless steel substrate (Ra = 6.7 ± 0.3 µm) preheated to 200 °C are compared to those of pure stainless steel. Hardness and adhesion/cohesion of deposits formed with fine particles were found to be improved comparatively to a pure stainless steel deposit. However, when coarse particles are used, the value of hardness is decreased and works is in progress to understand this phenomenon.

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