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Do coatings really have special capabilities?

From jet fuel efficiency to medical device safety, clever coatings have you covered.


Talk about overachievers! Today’s high-performance coatings deliver pleasing aesthetics and protect against a variety of problems, such as wear, corrosion or heat transfer, and can add new properties to facilitate a desired effect like electrical conduction, magnetism and more. Their ever-growing capabilities are bound to surprise you. Take a look at just a few of the unexpected applications and results being powered by the latest generation of such functional surfaces:

1.) Can you imagine an aviation application with the power to cut costs, reduce fuel and CO2 emissions, and enhance passenger safety?

That’s not a target for future performance. It’s something that the aviation industry is gaining from the use of high-tech coatings such as Oerlikon Metco’s thermal spray solutions. Coatings that control clearance in an airplane compressor can raise engine efficiency by 2%, which translates to annual savings of 4.8 billion liters of fuel and a decrease of 15.6 million tons of CO2 emissions based on 2015 worldwide figures. Advanced thermal barrier coatings protect hot section components and increase power plant thermal efficiency. Coatings also protect turbines against oxidation, hot gas corrosion, erosion, and wear and raise the bar on their overall performance. For example, high-tech coatings for jet engines used in a fleet of A320 family of aircrafts results in daily savings of millions of liters of fuel and reduction of thousands of tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

2.) How to handle the toll that high surface pressures and strong friction loads take on diesel engine parts like rail injectors?

Without coating, some of these parts would have to be replaced daily. But coatings, like Oerlikon Balzers’ BALINIT diamond-like carbon coating, in combination with other coated components, can enable these parts to continue functioning through the car’s lifetime. They also contribute to achieving a minimum 10% fuel savings. And those results have been replicated and verified year after year on more than 10 million diesel injection system components that Oerlikon Balzers coats annually.

3.) How do scalpels, scissors, saws and cutters cut cleanly, repel bacteria and fungi, and cause no discomfort to the surgical team?

Polished stainless steel meets the first two criteria but reflects light, which can interfere with the medical team’s vision during procedures that require the utmost precision. Medical coatings help. Serving as a protective layer, the coatings deliver the sharpness and level of hardness necessary in surgery while preventing contaminants from adhering to them. And, on top of it, it offers the additional benefit of reduced glare—which diminishes eye strain and therefore the risk of a surgical error during a long, tiring procedure.

4.) Making manufacturing tools and components harder, better equipped to withstand heat, hard surface resistance, and less susceptible to corrosion, dirt and water.

Manufacturing tools, such as drills and milling cutters, are subjected to high usage, pressures, heat and friction. Coatings enable an extended life, greater productivity, lower dependence on replacements and, as a consequence, less waste and reduced depletion of scarce resources. Advantages of coating in the manufacturing sector also include reduced friction in moving parts. Automotive parts such as engines, brakes, turbines, control systems, seals and valves all work more smoothly thanks to coating advances, which is what Oerlikon offers to customers to increase their operating efficiency in manufacturing and save cost.

It seems that wherever there’s human need, coatings can be part of the solution. They’re not just a decorative exterior. Keep watching for more coating advances—you’re sure to see more ingenious surface capabilities rise to the occasion.

From Randy B. Hecht


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