Multi-layer, continuous liquid coating is the most efficient way to manufacture films that require more than one layer for optimal performance. Dual-layer slot coating is one of different coating methods largely used to deposit two thin, uniform liquid layers on to a moving substrate. The two liquid phases are separated by an inter-layer that starts at the separation point (or line, in three dimensions) attached to the die surface. The stability of the two-phase flow and the location of the separation point are directly related to the quality of the final product. Ideally, the separation point should be attached to the downstream corner of the mid die piece of a dual slot-coating die. However, its location may change as operating conditions vary, leading to undesired flow states, with microvortices and periodic oscillation. The movement of the separation point from its desired location along the die surface is usually referred to as mid-gap invasion and can be associated with the onset of coating defects. It is crucial to determine the set of flow conditions at which it occurs. We study the evolution of the separation-point location and the inter-layer configuration as a function of operating conditions by flow visualization and by solving the two-dimensional Navier–Stokes equation for free-surface flows. The results reveal two different mechanisms for mid-gap invasion, depending on the viscosity ratio of the two liquid layers. They also show that the most critical parameter responsible for the onset of mid-gap invasion is the bottom-layer wet thickness (flow rate). Although the movement of the separation point involves an evolution of complex flow states, a simple but accurate criterion based on rectilinear flow approximation is proposed.
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