Industrial coatings: the next generation

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Poster session at the Technology Briefing in Thun: guests from industrial compan

Poster session at the Technology Briefing in Thun: guests from industrial companies and Swiss SMEs learn about the current research on functional surfaces. Image: Empa

Industry representatives met at Empa’s Thun campus last week to get information on the latest high-tech trends in industrial coatings. The partnership with the Hightech Zentrum Aargau strengthens the transfer of knowledge from research to companies.

The joint technology briefing of Empa and the Hightech Zentrum Aargau on 14 November in Thun was fully booked with 80 participants. The guests - mostly from industrial companies and Swiss SMEs - learned about the current research on functional surfaces in seven lectures.

The organizers - Empa and the Hightech Zentrum Aargau - had brought together high-ranking coating specialists from Switzerland and abroad for the presentations. Paul Mayrhofer, Professor at the TU Vienna, gave an overview of historical and upcoming PVD coating technologies. Bernhard Andreaus from Inficon AG showed the first industrial applications with atomic layer deposition for three-dimensional forms. Jürgen Ramm from OC Oerlikon Surface Solutions AG reported on the new variety of oxide coatings produced in a controlled manner. Orlaw Massler of DeMartin AG Surface Technology opened the door to hybrid coatings - a combination of electroplated and sputtered layers. With this method, properties can be produced that cannot be achieved with a single method. Matthias Muoth of Glas Trösch AG gave an insight into the technology for the large-scale industrial coating of windows and technical glass and spoke about visions for the window coating of the future.

A one-hour tour through the laboratories at Empa’s Thun campus rounded off the event. Visitors learned about the methods Empa researchers use to deposit individual atomic layers on substrates, how they analyse the structure and function of thin layers and how they optimize the manufacturing process. The production of smooth flowing nanopowders using plasma and the refinement of metal-3D printing technology were also topics on the tour, led by Empa researchers Johann Michler and Patrick Hoffmann.

Lab visit: Empa scientist Lazlo Petho explains physical vapor deposition (PVD) - a method that can be used to produce thin films and coatings. Image: Empa

For the first time, the event took place in close cooperation with the "Praxiszirkel Functional Coatings " at Hightech Zentrum Aargau. The Hightech Zentrum Aargau advises, supports and networks companies on innovation and technology issues. With its focus on nanoand material technologies, the Hightech Zentrum Aargau opens up the know-how of universities and research institutes for nanotechnological applications and makes it accessible to companies throughout Switzerland.

Many achievements of modern life would be unthinkable without high-tech coatings. They determine the mechanical, optical, electrical or biological properties of technical surfaces. Many applications for extreme environments, such as in gas turbines or in the wear protection of high-performance tools, but also applications for large-volume products from the consumer sector and micro and optoelectronics, are only made possible by coatings. The diversity of different coating technologies is only partially known even to experts, although Switzerland plays a leading role in this field internationally. The latest trends in layer design include a nanoscale layer structure, the combination of very different coating technologies or the fabrication of bionic surfaces based on animal models.