What Makes A Good Thermal Spray Operator?

When protective coatings are applied with consistent excellence, it is anything but accidental. More likely, the resulting expertly applied protective coatings have been executed by a thermal spray operator who is highly effective. But what makes a good thermal spray operator? The following are very basic traits held by thermal spray operators, well worth their weight in gold to whichever company they work for.

Organization Is A Must

Searching for tools is a waste of time. Time is money. A good operator has faith in his tools and knows exactly where each one of them is at any given moment. He has all of the calibrated micrometers and other tools required for the job. Jobs can consist of anything from adjustments to a set up all the way to minor equipment maintenance.

A Clean Work Area

In addition to having tools that are calibrated and organized, the area in which he works must be kept clean and organized. The beginning of the job should be taking place in an area that has been cleaned up. And at the end of the job, the area should be cleaned again. Dirt and clutter must be cleared away. Oil and water contamination can be a big problem in the thermal spray process. Degreasing becomes a huge part of clean up for not just work areas but for the parts being thermal sprayed.

A Procedure For Everything

Not only is there a place for everything (so everything should be in its place), there is a correct procedure for everything. In preparation for what needs to be done, the pre-spray inspection procedure should be the same for all operators, every day. Additionally, written instructions should always be supplied to an effective operator. More scrap and rework will be generated by assumptions and verbal instructions.

Consistently Consistent

A proper, desired outcome will be the result of every job an effective operator completes. The written instructions for any procedure, as just mentioned, go a long way in assuring this; as do identical procedures for every operator. To support and complete a job, several documents should be supplied to the operator.

  • Inspection instructions
  • Operational instructions
  • Traveler

Surface Preparation

In the entire thermal spray process, this is possibly the most critical. Coatings will not adhere to a part whose surface has not been properly prepared. As an example, oil must be completely burned off the part to prepare it for thermal spray. This means exceptionally high heat so that any oil that is trapped will burn up as it weeps out.

Good for One – Good for All

As previously mentioned, parameters of each operation should be the same so that work is always consistent – no matter who the worker is on that particular job. Some spray parameters are as follows:

  • Gas and air flows/pressures
  • Coating thickness pre-pass
  • Wire/powder feed rates
  • Power settings (can include gas pressures, gas flows, gas type, current, voltage, etc.)
  • Feed rate
  • Spray distance
  • Speed of rotation (rpm’s)


A worker should be accountable for the job that he does – regardless of the outcome. Documentation and inspections should be completed before a worker exits his work area. Before parts leave the area, they should be cooled down and the correct finish spray size should be verified and documented. Not only does this insure that there are no problems with the part, it supports the worker’s statement that they have done their job correctly.

At A&A Coatings, only the finest thermal spray workers are employed. That’s what keeps us in business. It’s what keeps our clients coming back. Contact us today if you need parts or components thermal sprayed.

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