Launched eight years ago, the Oerlikon Balzers INNOVA coating system has turned out to be a bestseller. The 100th INNOVA system was shipped just recently. “The INNOVA represents a breakthrough in technology with respect to application flexibility and a high level of reliability,” says Helmut Rudigier, Head of Research and Development at Oerlikon Balzers. The INNOVA coating system was and still is a key success factor for Oerlikon Balzers' growth.
On the bottom line, Oerlikon Balzers is a service provider: Customers bring drill bits, milling cutters, and forming tools as well as automotive, aircraft, and compression components, sur-gical instruments and much more to one of the company's 94 coating centres around the world. At these centres, Oerlikon Balzers applies ultra-thin nitride, oxide, and different carbon-modified coatings for protection against wear and friction. More than 90% of its revenues originate from this service business, and the trend is still pointing up.
This service is conceivable only with efficient and reliable resources – and this is where, eight years ago, Oerlikon Balzers defined a new benchmark with the INNOVA. Since coating systems entail six-figure investments, they must be deployable as flexibly as possible. “De-pending on the components or tools involved, our customers have highly diversified expecta-tions, so the coatings have to be optimised to the respective application,” Rudigier adds. At the same time, the systems have to be extremely reliable. Otherwise, the service could not be cost-effectively provided with the necessary quality. In the production environment, more than 15 different coating systems can be applied to tools, components, and parts made of many different substrate materials without compromising availability.
Since it was originally conceived, the INNOVA has been continually refined to accommodate new technical developments and anticipate customer requirements. In 2006, for instance, Oer-likon Balzers developed the patented P3e coating process which makes it possible to produce hard aluminium oxide coatings with a special corundum structure at relatively low tempera-tures. Previously, this was not possible, but now, it offers many exciting application ad-vantages. The latest generation of arc evaporation sources is available for the INNOVA as well, further proof of the coating system's versatility.
No wonder that, given its many assets, INNOVA has not only been delivered to Oerlikon Balzers' own coating centres. Many of the 100 systems shipped so far were ordered by highly respected tool manufacturers – “a welcome verification of the fact that Balzers defines the standards in state-of-the-art coating technology,” Rudigier notes. “And a fitting occasion to celebrate with the entire development team!”