Spraying and Dipping

Spraying and dipping are two methods of applying ceramic coatings in a slip or slurry form. Spraying and dipping methods are used to apply silicates and other coatings onto engine exhaust ducts, space heaters, radiators, and other high-production parts.

Spraying can be used when the shape of the work permits direct access to all surface areas to be coated. This method is usually used for applying a closely controlled thickness of coating to exterior surfaces only.

Dipping can be used for almost all parts. This includes riveted or spot welded assemblies, except those in which faying surfaces would be inadequately covered by the slurry. For a uniform coating thickness, a handling cycle must be established for each part to produce drainage of each surface at the proper angle.

Surface Preparation. Parts must be thoroughly cleaned before spraying or dipping. Oily spots prevent adherence of the coating and cause blistering or spalling during firing. When sand blasting is used, the abrasive must be free of contaminants. Sharp workpiece edges should be rounded because they are difficult to coat. If sharp edges are coated without being rounded off, the coating will often spall after firing.

The principal cleaning processes used are chemical and abrasive. Chemical cleaning methods for metals of low-alloy content are similar to those used before porcelain enameling. (Additional information can be found in the article "Porcelain Enameling" in this Volume.) For high-alloy materials, such as stainless steels and heat-resisting alloys, heat scaling or trichloroethylene-vapor degreasing, followed by grit blasting, is the preferred cleaning method, except for parts made of thin-gage material or with inaccessible areas. For these parts, chemical cleaning is required. Table 10 shows the sequence of chemical cleaning solutions and immersion times used for stainless steels and heat-resisting alloys. The use of chemical cleaning with alkaline solutions is limited to parts that permit good drainage. All cleaning solutions must be removed from the work by water rinsing before the coating is applied.

Table 10 Descaling of stainless steels and heat-resisting alloys before ceramic coating


Immersion time, min

Solution 1

Sodium hydroxide(a)

Solution 2 Sodium hydride(b)

Solution 3 Nitric-hydrofluoric acid(c)

Solution 4

Nitric acid(d)

410, 430





321, 347, 316; 19-9 DL





Inconel; Nimonic 75, 80A



5 max


(a) Molten sodium hydroxide at 400 to 425 °C (750 to 800 °F).

(b) Molten sodium hydroxide containing 0.1 to 2 wt% sodium hydride; bath at 370 to 400 °C (700 to 750 °F).

(c) Aqueous solution containing 1 to 4 vol% 70% hydrofluoric acid and 15 to 25% nitric acid (1.41 sp gr); temperature, 60 to 82 °C (140 to 180

°F). Solution may be used at ambient temperature by increasing immersion time.

(d) Aqueous solution containing 12 to 20 vol% nitric acid (1.41 sp gr); temperature, 60 to 82 °C (140 to 180 °F)

Abrasive blast cleaning should be used on parts that will not be distorted by the blasting action and whose surfaces are accessible to the blasting medium. Abrasive cleaning is particularly applicable when an extremely strong mechanical bond between the coating and substrate is required. Silica sand, the most commonly used blasting medium, has low initial cost. However, its high breakdown rate and its highly detrimental effect on blasting equipment results in high equipment maintenance costs. Use of materials with a higher initial cost, such as steel grit or shot, aluminum oxide, garnet, and glass shot, often results in lower overall cost. For additional information about materials, equipment, and techniques used in abrasive blast cleaning, see the article "Mechanical Cleaning Systems" in this Volume.

Processing. Ceramic coating materials may be purchased as slips, in which form only the specific gravity requires adjustment by either adding or pouring off water before application. Coatings may also be obtained as frits. Frits are milled in porcelain-lined mills with water to which refractory oxides or other inert materials, clay, and setup agents are added to produce the required analysis.

Changes from the recommended composition and specific gravity of a slip may produce undesirable results. A low specific gravity causes limited coverage or running of the applied coating. A high specific gravity results in thick coatings that spall on firing. To obtain satisfactory results, test pieces, 25 by 75 mm (1 by 3 in.) and of the same composition and gage as the work material, should be used to check the dry film weight of the slip and the characteristics of the coating as fired. The slip should be checked at the beginning of each working period and whenever an adjustment is made or when a new batch is prepared.

Application of the slip to the work is also critical because of the coating thickness. For stainless steels and heat-resisting alloys, coating thickness ranges from 13 to 75 pm (0.5 to 3 mils). No specific tolerances for coating thickness exist. If the coating is too thin, it oxidizes during firing and loses its protective value; if too thick, it spalls.

Dipping is the preferred method of coating for production operations, although spraying is also extensively used. In some instances, manual debeading is necessary to remove excess coating from points of buildup to prevent spalling. Complex shapes must be sprayed, because dipping builds up excessive beads or fillets in inaccessible areas.

After being applied, the slip is dried in forced circulating air at 60 to 120 °C (140 to 250 °F) for 10 to 15 min. If the drying temperature is too low, waterlines appear on the coating; if too high, the coating tears. All free water must be removed, or the coating will blister during firing.

Firing is accomplished in a gas or electrically heated furnace. Firing temperature and time depend on the thickness of both the coating and the substrate. The temperature and furnace atmosphere are controlled to produce the required as-fired appearance of the coating with maximum adherence. Overfiring causes excessive oxidation of the substrate, resulting in poor adhesion or a decrease in coating properties. Underfired coatings have poor adhesion and strength and do not develop maximum coating protection.

Equipment for spraying ceramic coatings is available commercially. The spray gun should have a nozzle with an orifice diameter of 1.30 to 2.80 mm (0.050 to 0.110 in.). Efficient nozzles have a spraying capacity of 260,000 to 330,000 mm3 (16 to 20 in.3) of coating material per minute using an air pressure of 345 kPa (50 psi) to propel the coating material to the work surface. The compressed air supply should be filtered to remove dirt, rust, oil, and moisture. A reliable air pressure regulator should be used to permit accurate adjustment of pressures, particularly in the range of 205 to 550 kPa (30 to 80 psi).

For most dipping applications, the equipment consists of a tank such as that shown in Fig. 1. The tank should be large enough to permit complete submersion of the part into the slip. An easel or rack is required for draining. Dipping equipment can be elaborated to include temperature-controlled dip tanks and recirculating systems with screens and separators in the line for removing contaminants. Automatic equipment incorporating positioners for proper drainage is often used.

Fig. 1 Recirculating dip tank for the application of ceramic coatings

Flow coating is modified dipping and draining in which slip is flowed onto conveyorized parts. Slip flows from nozzles designed to flush all surfaces of the work, after which it drains into a catch basin and is recirculated.

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