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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
University develops new performance coating
Article Type: Industry news From: Industrial Lubrication and Tribology, Volume 60, Issue 3.
A new process developed by engineers at Sheffield Hallam University is quietly revolutionising the durability of our everyday objects. Simple items such as a pair of spectacles or mobile phone can get the same treatment as a Formula One engine to extend their life indefinitely by receiving a special coating.
Other everyday items such as bathroom taps, door handles and light pulls can also be given the treatment which can even be made in a range of fashionable colours.
The process, known as physical vapour deposition (PVD), is a new technology created to put high-quality coatings on parts to protect them from the environment.
The PVD coating system has huge implications for industry as it is very high quality and much more versatile than most existing coatings. The process has already been applied in the automotive industry to increase the life of piston rings and in textiles where production has been increased by coating combing rollers so the needles stay sharper for longer.
One of the most remarkable applications is in the medical industry where biomedical implants such as knee and hip joints are coated so they are resistant to wear and have less chance of being rejected by the body.
Arutiun Ehiasarian, Senior Researcher from the Nanotechnology Centre for PVD at Sheffield Hallam University said, “We are very proud of our achievement in creating this process. The first laboratory tests began in the year 2000 so it has taken quite some time and a lot of hard work and cooperation with other partners to develop this process to an industrial scale. The potential uses for this system are endless, and it is already licensed to five companies around Europe.”
Sheffield Hallam University led the development and holds the patent on the PVD coating system but has also worked closely with power supplier HÜTTINGER Electronic on developing the necessary power supply to an industrial scale.
Part of the process involved creating a new method called high-power impulse magnetron sputtering (HIPIMS) which is a “plasma” technique where the coating is produced by bombarding the surface to be coated with carefully prepared atoms and metal ions.
The University, along with The Netherlands company Hauzer Techno Coatings which supplies the coating machinery, has produced the first machine to operate HIPIMS automatically as a turnkey solution. This has now become a product in its own right because it makes it much easier for a wider range of companies to offer a premium coatings process service.
The Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills, John Denham, officially opened the world renowned PVD research lab in July 2007. In 2006, Sheffield Hallam generated the most research income of all post-1992 universities - around £18.4 million.