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Additive Manufacturing of Metal Components by Thermal Spray Deposition on 3D-Printed Polymer Parts


Metals were deposited using wire-arc spray-on components made by 3D printing with polyvinyl alcohol (PVA), a water-soluble polymer. The polymer was then dissolved, leaving a metal layer whose surface topography was negative to that of the polymer. This is a rapid and low-cost alternative to 3D printing directly using metal, but to succeed it is essential for the sprayed metal to adhere to the polymer substrate. Tests were done in which aluminum and copper were sprayed using a twin-wire arc spray system onto 3D printed coupons, 50 × 50 mm in size, made from PVA, polylactic acid (PLA), and PLA mixed with metal (aluminum, copper) or carbon fiber. Adhesion depended on substrate roughness (minimum 1-2 µm) substrate temperature (above the glass transition temperature but below the melting temperature of the polymer) and minimizing residual stresses due to mismatch of the thermal expansion coefficients of metal and polymer. It was shown that surface features could be made on metal components using this technique. Plates with internal flow passages were made by placing 3D printed PVA parts in channels machined in the plates, spraying metal over the polymer, and then dissolving the polymer.

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Polylactic acid


Polyvinyl alcohol


Scanning electron microscope

\({E}_{c}\) :

Young's modulus (N/mm2)

\(L\) :

Length of the component (m)

\(\Delta {L}_{s}\) :

Change in substrates length (m)

\({t}_{c}\) :

Thickness of the coating (m)

\({t}_{s}\) :

Thickness of the substrate (m)

\({T}_{g}\) :

Glass transition temperature (°C)

\({T}_{m}\) :

Melting temperature (°C)

\(R\) :

Radius of curvature (m)

\({R}_{a}\) :

Surface roughness (μm)

\(\Delta T\) :

Temperature decrease (°C)

\(V\) :

Voltage (V)

\({\alpha }_{c}\) :

Coefficient of thermal expansion of coating material (°C1)

\({\alpha }_{s}\) :

Coefficient of thermal expansion of substrate material (°C1)

\(\delta\) :

Deflection in the component (m)

\(\varepsilon\) :

Strain in the component

\({\nu }_{c}\) :

Poisson’s ratio of the coating material

\({\nu }_{s}\) :

Poisson’s ratio of the substrate material

\({\sigma }_{A}\) :

Adhesive strength (MPa)

\({\sigma }_{c}\) :

Stress in the coating (N/mm2)

\(\kappa\) :

Curvature (m1)






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The authors would like to acknowledge the financial support for this work from Natural Science and Engineering Research Council Green Surface Engineering for Advanced Manufacturing (Green-SEAM) Strategic Network.

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Correspondence to Ramgopal Varma Ramaraju.

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Ramaraju, R.V., Chandra, S. Additive Manufacturing of Metal Components by Thermal Spray Deposition on 3D-Printed Polymer Parts. J Therm Spray Tech (2022).

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  • 3D printing
  • additive manufacturing
  • internal channels
  • rapid prototyping
  • thermal spray