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Beyond Surfaces #5 - Coatings

Invented by the devil; Automotive emissions motives; 30 years of “What’s next?”; A bottle everyone is familiar with; Audit means training; Hidden champions;

Beyond Surfaces #5 - Coatings

“The surface is always a complex matter because it is subject to so many influences”. In the latest edition of BEYOND SURFACES, Professor Paul Mayrhofer at TU Wien explains why this was a challenge even for renowned physicists such as Wolfgang Pauli – and demonstrates the best way to tackle the problem together with other experts in the field of surface technologies.

Find out how these technologies help make our cars faster and use resources more sparingly. And how customers around the globe rely on our solutions to create more efficient and sustainable production methods. In addition, our expert Dr. Arkadi Zikin talks about the new applications of this technology and presents a brand new research project with ETH Zurich. Immerse yourself in the fascinating world of coatings.

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Precision components in focus

Fine screws in the millimeter range for dental technology, camshafts for Formula 1 engines, roller bearings for wind turbines, pistons for pumps or reeds for the textile industry – all of these are precision components. They need to be coated so that they can fulfill their functions properly. This in turn requires a great deal of experience, a profound understanding of processes and excellent sector knowledge.

«With coated jet engines, one million liters of fuel can be saved per hour worldwide.»

Precision components are parts that must fulfill special tasks, typically in challenging mechanical or thermal circumstances. In medical technology, for instance, special surfaces reduce the growth of bacteria to a minimum. In aircraft engines, the compressor blades operate under extreme conditions throughout their service life. And valves in the petroleum production industry must operate perfectly at the decisive moment even if they have not been used for years. “Coatings allow the service life of components to be extended and both maintenance expenditures and raw materials consumption to be reduced. In fact, some functions become possible only as a result of the coating,” remarks Dr. Andreas Ehrbar-Reiter, Global Head of Marketing and Sales Precision Components at Oerlikon Balzers.

The “right” surface

The results that a coating can attain are impressive, as a few examples will demonstrate: The right surface on a turbine blade increases its wear resistance by up to 25 times. With corrosion protection coatings on pipelines, maintenance and repair costs can be dramatically reduced. And with coated jet engines, one million liters of fuel can be saved per hour worldwide.

But how do you find the “right” surface? Selecting the respective optimal coating for different applications requires expertise. “This is why we see our place in the process as being very close to the customer; we both want to and are able to comprehend their application and understand their processes down to the last detail,” explains Dr. Ehrbar-Reiter. For this reason, at Oerlikon Balzers, recognized industry experts with years of experience in the respective markets support customers from the key sectors of aerospace, medical technology, high-end deco, motorsport, oil & gas, semiconductors and energy production. Customers who are not directly associated with one of these sectors will also find an experienced contact person at Oerlikon.

Coating with experience – and more!

Coating with experience – and more!

Early involvement helps ensure that precision components are able to fulfill their tasks optimally: “We don’t see our job as being merely a ‘coater’; instead, we already offer customers our know-how during the conception of their components. After all, what matters ultimately is the overall function of the component,” says Dr. Ehrbar-Reiter.

In addition, one of the most important questions to be answered in a series or mass-production situation is how to apply the coating as efficiently as possible. The maximum possible throughput in the coating system is not the only factor to be considered here. There is also the means of fastening the components for the coating process in the holders, which are typically custom made. “Of course, our teams of specialists in the service centers are able to contribute their experience from other tasks as well. This benefits our customers. We also don’t hesitate to explore previously unknown approaches,” says Dr. Ehrbar-Reiter.

We don’t see our job as being merely a ‘coater’; instead, we  already offer customers our know-how during the conception of their components.

Dr. Andreas Ehrbar-Reiter
Global Head of Marketing and Sales Precision Components, Oerlikon Balzers

“Hidden champions”

Precision components typically fulfill their functions at locations where they are not even visible. And they are characterized by a variety so vast, it is hard to imagine. Which poses a logical question: With all the different sectors, requirements and components, isn’t it hard for even an expert to maintain an overview? Dr. Ehrbar-Reiter laughs: “The variety and the complexity are exactly the factors that make the area of ‘Precision Components’ so fascinating for me.”

More than just coatings

At Oerlikon Balzers, more than 62 million components are coated annually. Groundbreaking coating solutions are developed that are tailored to the current market needs and individual customers’ requirements. Oerlikon Balzers is the only supplier that is present locally in all significant industrial regions throughout Europe, the USA and Asia through an extensive network of customer centers.

Read more about our services dealing with all aspects of coatings here:


Petra Ammann

Petra Ammann

Head of Communications Oerlikon Balzers

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