To reduce the high surface roughness of additive manufactured (AM) products, typically a post-treatment is required. Subtractive post-treatments are often performed by hand and are therefore expensive and time consuming, whereas conventional additive post-treatments, such as pneumatic spray coating, require large quantities of coating material. Ultrasonic spray coating, in contrast, is an additive post-treatment technology capable of applying coatings in an efficient way, resulting in less material usage. In this paper, we investigate the application of the ultrasonic spray coating process and the final properties of the coated AM part by applying a thin coating to reduce surface roughness of the AM substrate and to impart hydrophobic functionality. The hydrophobic coating is applied onto flat selective laser sintered (SLS) surfaces prepared from polyamide 12 (PA12) having a surface roughness of Ra
= 20 µm. The hydrophobic coating consists of 5 wt % polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF) in acetone. The coated substrates are analyzed for roughness using a profilometer, a contact angle using a goniometer, and a coating uniformity and thickness using light and scanning electron microscopes. The layer formation applying the ultrasonic spray coating is studied and compared with layer formation using pneumatic spray coating. It is found that a roughness reduction down to 5 µm was achieved via an ultrasonic spray coating with 30 layers of PVDF solution. It is shown in cross-section electron microscopy pictures that, due to the nature of the ultrasonically generated droplets, the rough and porous surface of the SLS surface is filled with the PVDF material after which the roughness is reduced by adding a thin layer on top. In comparison to a standard industry-applied pneumatic spray coating process, the results obtained from ultrasonic spray coating show less material usage, a reduced roughness, and a better filling of the pores, obviously resulting in optimized adhesion.
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