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Beyond Surfaces #9 - Opportunity

The year 2020 has brought a great deal of change. In this edition of BEYOND SURFACES we include a “special”, giving you a unique insight into how our employees around the world have taken on the challenge of the initial months of the Covid-19 pandemic with commitment and creativity. We are also taking the magazine title quite literally and are looking “beyond surfaces” into the second pillar of the Oerlikon Group, our synthetic-fiber business.

With this edition, we are celebrating a small but important anniversary: The first issue of BEYOND SURFACES was published five years ago. Two years earlier, Metco had joined the Oerlikon Group, and this magazine was created to introduce our customers to the solutions offered by the two brands, Oerlikon Balzers and Oerlikon Metco.

Since then, the Oerlikon Group has undergone significant changes. Today, it is a “Powerhouse of Materials and Surface Solutions.” Our newest business unit, Additive Manufacturing, which focuses on the industrialization of additive manufacturing methods, represents an important augmentation of the Oerlikon Balzers and Oerlikon Metco portfolio.

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Marc Hervé runs with a niche. But it‘s very fast …

On his own time, he takes to the road in a modest family vehicle. But when he advises his customers, everything revolves around Formula 1 racing cars, Moto-GP bikes or Formula E racing cars, and above all the question: Which coating will make them a decisive tenth of a second faster than the competition? Marc Hervé drives performance in a niche and knows the secrets of the big and famous in motorsports.

In motorsports, there is only one goal: to win. Everything else is secondary. Normally, Oerlikon Balzers coatings for the automotive sector are used to reduce friction and extend the service life of engine components — with the aim of making engines run more efficiently.

In racing, it’s different, and that difference is measured in tenths of a second. Those fractions rely on more rather than less: the aim is not to reduce friction, but to get even more power — and therefore higher speed — out of the engine thanks to the coating.

Marc Hervé, Global Segment Manager Motorsports at Oerlikon Balzers, says: “I am not a coatings salesman, and I don’t have to negotiate the price. When a customer calls me, he either has a problem he wants to solve with our help, or he is convinced that we are the right partner for a new project. In that case, I advise, act as a sparring partner for what-if considerations, and often serve as a coach until we are sure: This will work. Because in motorsport, mistakes are not allowed: When you go out on the track, you have to be sure it’ll work.”

When you go out on the track, you have to be sure it’ll work.

Marc Hervé, Gobal Segment Manager Motorsports, Oerlikon Balzers

No fiddling around until the racing season is over

Even off the racetrack, it’s all about speed. Development times of several months and long internal approvals? Marc shakes his head: “I work directly with the teams that develop the racing cars and with their suppliers. From the first meeting to the finished solution, we have to manage that in two months. We can’t fiddle around until the racing season is over! That’s the spirit you need to have to work in this industry. This is lived by the racing teams, by us at Oerlikon Balzers in Limoges, and even by the drivers who bring the engine parts to our customer center for coating: They often spend the night in the car park so that they can bring the finished parts to their team without wasting time!”

Is it even necessary to ask what still fascinates him about his work after two decades? He laughs: “Imagine, I’ve had the same desk in the same office for 21 years! I was born and raised in Limoges, studied mechanical engineering there and got my first job with Sorevi. Today the company is called Oerlikon Balzers. Last year, we celebrated our 30th anniversary, and I celebrated my 20th anniversary at the same time — it was very emotional!”

When a customer calls me, I advise, act as a sparring partner for what-if considerations, and often serve as a coach until we are sure: This will work.

Marc Hervé, Gobal Segment Manager Motorsports, Oerlikon Balzers

No noise, no smell. But extremely exciting.

In motorsports, a distinction is made between “racing” and supersports. The first category includes Formula 1 — which is dominant mainly in Europe — the American NASCAR series, and rally or motorcycle series such as Moto-GP and Superbike.

“Supersports” include races with high performance vehicles used on the road, such as super or hyper cars and also motorcycles. For the past several years, races with electric drives as opposed to traditional combustion engines (Formula E, E-Rallyecross and electric motorcycles) have been added to both types.

How now — Formula 1 and electric in the same breath? Marc laughs. “Yes, I know what you’re thinking! At my first E-Race, my first thought was: Children’s toys! I mean, they had to change their battery in the middle of the race! And then, no noise, no smell … it was awful!” Today he is convinced that electric and hybrid drives are the future — in motorsports. For himself and his team, however, this also means that they are developing solutions for a completely new group of customers with completely new applications: “This is extremely exciting!”

No noise, no smell. But extremely exciting.

Coatings for an industry that wants to become sustainable

In general, sustainability is driving the entire industry. The question is: How do you put even more power on the track without harming the environment? When Marc started selling coatings for racing 20 years ago, that was no question at all: “Back then, we drove with twelve-cylinder engines, and it was not unusual for four engines to be worn out during a race weekend. For us as supplier that meant high volumes, many parts, low-cost coating. Today, it’s completely different: the cars run with six-cylinder engines, and they have to deliver top performance for at least five race weekends,” he explains. So the coatings have to ensure that these engines run longer and more reliably, and get the maximum out of the allowed amount of fuel. “That’s what racing today is all about, saving cost and fuel!”

His personal dream car: a Nissan GTR

Motorsports is a world of its own, but also a very small one. “We work for almost all professional racing teams, and therefore for direct competitors. So my colleagues in Limoges and I know some of the best-kept secrets of the motorsports world. We’re very proud of this because it shows how much the motorsports teams trust us.”

Marc Hervé says of himself in all modesty: “What I do is an absolute niche not only at Oerlikon Balzers. There are not many Marc Hervés in the world.” We believe him on that without hesitation. In any case, he has managed to infect us with his enthusiasm. At the end of the interview, there is only one question left: What kind of car does someone drive who deals with the fastest cars in the world every day, and also occasionally drives a Porsche or Ferrari on the race track himself? Marc grins: a Skoda Superb! And he puts it into perspective: “But one day I’m going to buy my dream car, a Nissan GTR, and I want to pick it up myself in Japan! Until then, I’ll have to wait a bit, because I promised my wife that we’ll pay off the house first — but somehow she always finds a new renovation project!”

BALIQ CARBOS — even better than Diamond-Like-Carbon (DLC)

When racing cars and motorcycles are pushed to their performance limits, critical components must withstand extreme loads. Then the hour strikes for BALIQ® CARBOS and BALIQ® CARBOS STAR, two coatings that Oerlikon Balzers has developed specifically for applications with extreme contact pressure and high sliding speeds. They are therefore ideal for high-performance engines in motor sports.

Watch the video on YouTube

30-year anniversary of Oerlikon Balzers in Limoges

In October 2019 Oerlikon Balzers celebrated the 30th anniversary of its customer center in Limoges, France, with numerous guests of honor and customers. Limoges is known as Oerlikon Balzers’ competence center for motorsports, where precision components of high-performance engines are coated to an exacting standard. Oerlikon Balzers’ success in the motorsports industry over more than 25 years is due mainly to the high-performance DLC coating BALINIT® CAVIDUR. With its low friction, very high wear resistance and long service life, it has set the global standard for valve train components.



Petra Ammann

Petra Ammann

Head of Communications Oerlikon Balzers

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