Understanding Thermal Coatings and How They Improve Engine Efficiency

What happens to bare metal when it’s open to the air, high heats, and other various elements?

The metal degrades. When it degrades it becomes weaker through oxidizing, rusting, or melting.   

The last thing any engineer or contractor wants is for their metal parts to fail.

Engineers have developed thermal coatings to protect the metal parts in your car, appliances, cooking utensils, and more!

There’s no doubt that thermal coatings play an important role in protecting valuable metal parts in nearly every industry.

Here’s what you need to know about thermal coatings and how they can improve engine efficiency and lifespan!

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What Are Thermal Coatings?

Engines in automobiles and planes burn fuels at temperatures as high as 2000˚C. Most metal parts in these engines will melt and fail at temperatures closer to 1200˚C.

How do engineers prevent these hot section metal parts from melting? They add a thermal industrial coating.

Thermal coatings are metallic or non-metallic materials applied to the surface of a metal item. A thermal coating is highly resistant to intense wear, corrosion, and oxidation. This makes it an excellent choice for protecting the metal surface for use in engines, aerospace, your appliances, and more!

The protection thermal coatings offer enhances the longevity and performance of metal parts. This ensures large engines found in your automobile or a jet plane are safe and reliable.

Thermal coatings play a valuable role in many industrial and manufacturing industries. Without them, we wouldn’t have the technology and transportation we have now.

Thermal Coating Processes

There are two main processes for attaching thermal coating to a substrate. These include thermal spray coating and electrostatic coating.

Electrostatic Coating

Electrostatic coating is a process that uses static electricity to attach the coating to the substrate. The coating material receives a positive electric charge and the substrate has a negative charge.

The attraction between positive and negative charges allows the coating to form a strong and even bond to the substrate. The pull of the static electricity will pull the charged coating to the substrate, reducing overspray.

Electrostatic coating processes are ideal for automobiles, aviation, and aerospace components. This coating process results in very little waste and creates a coating that’s easy to maintain.

Thermal Spray Coating

Thermal spraying is one of the oldest and most common coating processes. Thermal spray coating uses heat to melt the coating into a molten liquid form. Once molten or semi-molten, an engineer will use a high-pressure spray to attach the coating to the substrate.

The four types of thermal spraying include:

  • High-velocity oxygen fuel spray (HVOF)
  • Plasma spray
  • Arc spray
  • Flame spray

Thermal spray coatings require heat. Most metals must have a melting temperature greater than 196˚C to withstand this process.

Some of the thermal spraying methods require even more heat.

The main benefit of thermal spray coatings is they offer a high level of durable protection to a variety of substrates. It’s the most efficient process for applying coatings containing metals or ceramics to the substrate.

Engineers have the flexibility to make these coats thin or thick depending on their coating needs.

The Benefits of Thermal Coatings

The most notable benefit of investing in a thermal coating is the coating’s protective properties. Here are few more benefits of thermal coatings and how they can help you or your business.


There are many thermal coating materials available to fit any range of needs. These materials include metal, ceramic, polymer, and teflon coatings. The material comes in several forms such as powder, wire, or rod, depending on your method of application.

The versatility of thermal coating materials gives businesses and industries more flexibility. They’ll have the ability to meet a wider variety of thermal protection needs and applications.

Low-Heat Application

Applying the thermal coating doesn’t require high heat. This means the coating and the metal substrate need additional heating to adhere the coating to the substrate.

The application process is easier, faster, and safer for the substrate. Engineers and businesses have the flexibility to use thermal coatings on heat-sensitive materials. These include soft alloys, plastics, and other materials with a low melting point.

Thick Coatings

Engineers can apply thick layers of thermal coatings onto parts and substrates. This practice gives engineers the chance to restore worn components. Rather than scrapping used worn parts, businesses can restore and reuse these components again and again.

Manufacturing businesses can save time and money by reclaiming parts rather than replacing them.

Enhanced Performance

Thermal coatings can improve the performance of components in multiple ways. Copper-based coatings, for example, will improve the electrical conductivity of parts. Other thermal coatings can reduce electrical frequencies for other applications.

Other enhanced performance benefits include reduced stress corrosion and oxide pick-up. Coatings containing aluminum, zinc, or nickel can eliminate corrosion. These coatings are ideal for most aerospace and aviation exteriors.

High Resistance to Wear

A high resistance to wear improves the quality and lifespan of metal components. Businesses and individuals can enjoy fewer maintenance costs and downtime. A higher resistance to wear will also improve the energy efficiency of their engines.

This eliminates most forms of wear including abrasion, fretting, corrosion, erosion, and much more.

These benefits, however, are only effective when using the right type of coating for a substrate and specific need.

Industries Using Thermal Coatings

Industries that need thermal coatings include the automotive, aviation, and aerospace industries. There are coatings designed to resist abrasion caused by the movement of metal components as they heat and cool.

A few thermal applications in the automotive and aviation industries include:

  • Exhaust gaskets
  • Intake manifolds
  • Exhaust manifolds 
  • Electrical components affected by changing and increasing temperatures

The technology and components used in these industries undergo intense wear and tear. Without thermal coating, these industries wouldn’t have components that are reliable, safe, or efficient.

Thermal Coatings Are a Necessity

Have you ever used or rode in a vehicle, airplane, or train?

This technology wouldn’t be possible without the protection and performance of thermal coatings. Thermal coatings will continue to play an invaluable role in the automotive and aerospace future.

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