The influence of powder particle injection velocity on the microstructure of coatings consisting of an Al-Si matrix reinforced with SiC particles prepared by laser cladding from mixtures of powders of Al-12 wt.% Si alloy and SiC was investigated both experimentally and by modeling. At low injection velocities SiC particles react with the molten aluminum alloy. Only a small fraction of SiC remains in the microstructure, which contains large amounts of particles of the reaction products Al4SiC4 and Si dispersed in the alpha-Al + Si eutectic matrix. By contrast, at high injection velocities chemical reactions between SiC and molten aluminum are almost entirely suppressed and the resulting microstructure consists only of SiC particles dispersed in the matrix. To investigate whether this behavior could be explained by the different temperatures reached by the injected particles as they fly through the laser beam, a physical-mathematical model describing the interaction between the laser beam and the powder stream in the off-axis blown powder laser cladding process was developed and applied to calculate the temperature attained by the powder particles as a result of their interaction with an Nd:YAG laser beam (lambda = 1.06 mu m). At an injection velocity of 1 m/s the maximum temperature attained by SiC and Al-12Si particles is 3150 and 180 degrees C, respectively. This result demonstrates that particle injection velocity is a major parameter affecting the microstructure of coatings produced by laser cladding, and must be carefully controlled. (C) 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.