The Difference Between Cold Spray Systems and Thermal Spray Systems

Today, many industries are still using thermal spray systems instead of cold spray systems to repair and update equipment. However, the thermal spray system is a more traditional approach that has been in use for more than 100 years. 

If you’re looking for a more modern and innovative way to repair your original equipment, you’ll be glad to learn that the VRC Cold Spray system has only been in use for over 20 years. It began in the 1990s and continues to grow in popularity today.

If you want to take part in a new project and you’re looking to move away from the thermal spray system, then talk to one of our professionals at Cold Spray. We can move your project from the brainstorming stages to design and production. 

What Is a Cold Spray System?

image graphic of the cold spray technology process

Cold spray technology is a process in which metals, alloys, and other solid materials are quickly deposited at much lower temperatures than their melting temperatures. Essentially, this revolutionary technology offers an application for applying metallic coatings to your equipment.

This technology allows you to deposit metals and coating material in a solid state without needing to melt the materials or dissolve them through other means. 

There are two methods of the cold spray system: the high-pressure cold spray technology and the low-pressure cold spray application. 

The difference between the two is that the low-pressure cold spray method uses a low-pressure powder feeder to move the spray powder down the nozzle of the technology. Cold spray technology converts heat energy into kinetic energy.

Nitrogen, helium, or compressed cold gas is also at lower pressures in this method (below 300 psi) as compared to the high-pressure cold spray technology (fluctuating from 300 to 1000 psi).

What Can a Cold Spray System Do For You?

A cold spray system can ensure your equipment has improved material coatings, repair the surface of your hardware and appliances, and design the features you want on the surface of your tools.

The benefits of cold spray processes include making wear-resistant coatings, which will prevent the erosion of your equipment in heat, floods, storms, and other severe weather conditions. 

A cold spray coating is perfect if you need a metal coating system for zinc, stainless steel, bronze, tantalum, or aluminum products. You’ll find that a cold spray system will require only minor masking because it does not require chemical heating nor any melting processes.

What Is a Thermal Spray System?

Thermal spray coating technology is a more traditional approach that has been used since the early 1900s. This industrial coating system uses a heat source, usually a flame, and a coating powder or coating material as a wire. 

The flame is used to melt this material into small drops at a high temperature and then sprayed directly onto your equipment surfaces. Thermal spray processes use high-velocity to spray the drops onto the equipment. 

Usually, this process is used on metal substrate materials. However, it has also been applied to plastic substrates. You’ll find that your products are improved using either a thermal spray system or the VRC cold spray system.

What Can a Thermal Spray System Do For You?

welder welding metal with thermal spray

Thermal sprayed coatings offer you strong finished components that you can customize based on your project needs. These types of coating processes also have corrosion and wear resistance qualities similar to the VRC cold spray system.

Your equipment will perform better after undergoing a new coating process, whether it is a thermal spray coating or a VRC cold spray application. Best of all, the use of a thermal spray will extend your equipment’s lifespan. 

Before deciding which type of system is best for your needs, you should learn about the differences between cold spray and thermal spray systems.

What Are the Differences Between Cold Spray and Thermal Spray Systems?

One of the biggest differences between cold spray technology and thermal spray systems is the size of each powder particle sprayed onto the surface of a piece of equipment. The grain size of cold spray powder ranges from 1 to 50 µm, while thermal spray powders range from 10 to 100 µm.

In addition, cold spray technology is more useful with ductile materials, such as aluminum, zinc, bronze, and stainless steel. Thermal spray coating, however, is more practical with high-density, brittle materials.

Lastly, cold spray technology is also best for material oxidation, even though a tiny amount of oxidation occurs on the equipment’s surface during thermal spray coating.

Which Process Is Best For Your Industry?

An airplane getting ready for repair in a hangar.

Cold spray technology is an excellent choice for various industries, including aerospace component repair, aircraft repairs, pipeline, and liquid handling processes, and large equipment repair. 

As for thermal spray systems, these are best for use in the following industries:

  • Mechanical industry
  • Electronic space
  • Aerospace sector
  • Automotive industry

This provides you with a good idea of what kind of coating process is best for your industry.

Summary of Comparisons

Below, we have outlined a summary of comparisons between cold spray and thermal spray systems, including differences and similarities.

  • Cold spray is an up-and-coming and innovative technology offering a promising opportunity.
  • Thermal spray coating is a traditional and older form of technology
  • Cold spray technology has higher rates of oxide and porosity in sprayed materials as compared to the thermal spray coating system
  • Cold spray coatings have a limited range of materials upon which they can perform
  • Due to the cold spray system’s limited application, it is unlikely to completely replace thermal spray coating in the future
  • Both coating systems can be used in the aerospace sector


Detail of a small sports aircraft engine shaft.

Do you have a new idea for a VRC cold spray project, but you don’t know who to ask for help? Then speak to our specialists at VRC Metal Systems. 

We can take your manufacturing ideas from the prototype part to the production stage. At Cold Spray, we are committed to helping our customers with the process development stages. We will provide you with the right, cost-effective solutions.

Get a free quote today from VRC Cold Spray.

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