In dry flux application, the flux powder is electrostatically charged (typical voltage is ~ 100 kV) and applied to a grounded work piece. An electrical field results in flux deposition of the work piece. In practice, anisotropic distribution of the electric field can influence the homogeneity of powder coverage. At edges powder may accumulate, while penetration of powder into deep/thick fin packages (e.g., in case of double row tubes) can be limited by the Faraday cage effect.
Flux powder is electrically charged in the gun. However, it loses charge relatively fast when it hits the grounded heat exchanger. Therefore adhesion of the flux on the work piece is established rather by relatively weak Van der Waals forces than by electrostatic forces. Fine flux particles adhere better on the surface – but they are more difficult to operate with in the dry powder feeding system.
The relatively fine flux particles are more difficult to handle in dry powder feed systems compared to coarser paint powders – therefore the equipment used for electrostatic flux application is adapted to meet the specific requirements. Venturi pump, hose diameter, air flow and spray nozzle suitable for flux application are designed to minimize the possibility for powder buildup and clogging in the system. Powder transport within the hose system and the spray nozzle is further enhanced by introduction of additional air streams. The direction of the powder flow should always be from top to bottom. Sharp changes in flow direction must be avoided. In critical areas additional vibration units are installed to avoid powder buildup.
There are two types of powder feed systems established on the market (see the illustrations in the article):
The first type starts with the flux powder being fluidized in a fluidization vessel by compressed air that is fed through a porous membrane at the bottom of the fluidization vessel. The air going through the flux makes it behave like a fluid, since the powder is essentially diluted with air. A pick up tube attached to a Venturi pump is extended into the fluidized flux. Powder dosage is controlled by the volume of air flow through the pump. To optimize fluidization the vessel may additionally be equipped with a stirrer.
This type of feed system works perfectly well for classic electrostatic paints powders that are easy to fluidize, however, it may be difficult to establish a stable fluidization with ‘standard’ flux powder (i.e. the flux powder quality offered for wet/slurry-based flux application).
Fluctuations in density of the fluidized bed can result in inhomogeneous spray pattern (splashing) and might be a source for flux buildup within the system.
NOCOLOK® Flux Drystatic is optimized to minimize the challenges of powder feeding, while providing sufficient fine particle fraction for good adhesion properties.
The second type of powder feed system works on the principle of feeding the powder by a rotating helix screw (see the illustrations in the article above). Because of the mechanical displacement of the flux powder from the hopper, such devices minimize fluctuations of flux powder flow.
Most mechanical type of dry flux feed systems work with standard quality NOCOLOK® Flux as well as with special ‘Drystatic’ grade NOCOLOK® powder.
To achieve flux distribution patterns for specific process needs (e.g., higher flux loads in tube to header areas, coating from both sides of thick cores), multiple spray nozzles are arranged for deposition of the necessary flux load at different locations of the heat exchanger.
Dry fluxing booths must be equipped with a filter system to collect the overspray. The overspray material is recycled within the booth. To avoid accumulation of impurities within the recovered flux, it is necessary to take care of the booth environment (i.e. avoid dust, fumes, and high humidity level) as well as for the quality of the compressed air used. Contamination introduced by the heat exchangers or the transport belt must be prevented as well.
Due to the relatively weak flux adhesion (compared with wet- or paint- application methods), handling of dry fluxed parts should be done with special care to avoid flux fall off, especially at higher flux loads. To reduce flux fall off, some users perform electrostatic fluxing on heat exchangers with evaporative oils still present on the surfaces. Thermal degreasing in this case takes place after fluxing – just before the parts enter the brazing furnace.