The quality of a plasma sprayed coating is influenced by the plasma jet stability; entrainment of cold air through large scale turbulence can lead to variations in particle heating and trajectories resulting in increased unmelt densities, reduced deposition efficiencies, and oxidation of metal particles. The jet instabilities are in part caused by the swirl flow of the plasma gas. With two modifications to an atmospheric pressure plasma spray torch, we have investigated the influence of reduced swirl flow on jet stability, particle trajectories, and coating quality. The modifications are (1) addition of a shroud consisting of a porous ring surrounding the anode nozzle while simultaneously injecting part of the shroud gas inside the nozzle with a swirl component in the direction opposing the plasma gas vortex, and (2) an injector ring with which part of the plasma gas is injected radially and part tangentially producing reduced vortex flow for the same plasma gas flow rate. Jet stability and particle trajectories are determined using a LaserStrobe system combined with image analysis, and coatings have been evaluated by determining porosity and unmelt density. Results indicate that deposition efficiency is most affected by reduced vortex flow, while the shroud addition reduces unmelt density and porosity.

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