Trends in the tribological coating market

In Spring 2020, Hauzer is launching its latest batch-coating machine, the Hauzer Flexicoat® 1250. The Flexicoat 1250 was specifically developed with the needs of tribological coaters in mind: to provide high quality for a broad coating range and exceptional cost of ownership. With a larger vacuum chamber and room for up to 8 cooling panels and 7 cathode positions, it has the power and flexibility to provide a superior cost per coating for a wide range of tribological coatings, both today and in the future.

This newest machine in the Flexicoat series was designed to meet some long-term market trends we noticed in the market. In this trend report, Hauzer is pleased to share our observations about the market for tribological coatings.

Trend 1: Shifts in engine design

The automotive sector is traditionally a strong market for tribological coatings. These coatings protect components which are subjected to high contact pressures and loads inside combustion engines and help car manufacturers comply with emission regulations. In recent years, however, the engine design has been shifting in several directions at the same time.

1. Diesel engines are losing ground to petrol engines

2. The drive towards increased fuel efficiency and power density means engines are getting smaller while maintaining power output

3. Electric vehicles are rising in prominence

Each of these developments affects coating choice. Diesel engines traditionally needed more resilient coatings than petrol engines, because the injection pressure for diesel is much higher. In the latest petrol engine designs, however, the injection pressures are also increasing. Although the pressures are still much less than for diesel engines, petrol lacks the self-lubricating characteristic of diesel, which means the need for coating is growing even more quickly. Due to the increasing temperatures and work-load operation, traditional diamond-like carbon (DLC) coatings can no longer be used on certain components, especially if the operating temperature exceeds 300⁰C. In many cases, that means automotive coating providers need to include tetrahedral amorphous carbon (ta-C), a specific DLC coating, in their portfolio.

Electric vehicles do not contain that many moving components that need lubricating or wear protection, so the need for tribological coatings is limited. However, for tribological coating specialists, there is still an interesting market opportunity in fuel cell–powered cars. Fuel cell stacks contain many square metres of bipolar plates, which require coatings that provide electrical conductivity and corrosion protection.

Still, the combustion engine may not completely be on its way out. Alternative fuel technologies – turning CO2 into petrol – are very promising. Today, emission regulations are all about how much CO2 emission arises from one tank of petrol. Seen through this lens, alternative fuels emit as much CO2 as fossil fuels. But if regulations could change to consider emissions across the life cycle of the fuel – known as ‘well-to-wheel’, these alternative fuels are absolutely zero emission, which is even better than battery or fuel cell. If this happened, combustion engines would go through a tremendous revival.

In automotive, there are also non-engine components that need coating. Consider the roller bearings, gears, brushes and seals in the transmission, steering, suspension and air-conditioning systems of vehicles, whether electric or combustion.

Trend 2: Industrial component coating on the rise

The industrial component market is large and extremely diverse. Many projects require only the capacity of a single coating system, which is different than the uniform, high-volume components in the automotive industry. These projects may be done in-house, but for efficiency’s sake are also often done by coating providers.

Some interesting sectors:

- Hydraulics. Hydraulic cylinders are part of many different types of vehicle and machinery.

- Aerospace and aviation. This market is much smaller than automotive, but aeroplanes have many tribological contact areas that require protecting. In addition, aeroplane engines use erosion protection and thermal barrier coatings.

- The oil and gas industry, where many components need wear-protective coating.

- Medical applications such as artificial joints, which often require wear-resistant or ion-release barrier coatings.

- Wear resistant, anti-stick coatings on nonlubricated components for pharmaceutical and food processing machinery, such as extruders and food mixers.

Trend 3: Opportunity-driven applications are growing

In addition to these main tribological markets, there are interesting one-off opportunities for coating providers in the tribological sector. There are many as yet unknown applications that can benefit from a tribological coating. For fast-acting coating providers with a wide range of technologies at their disposal, these opportunities can also drive business.

Conclusion: Investing in quality is paramount

In the tribological sector, coating quality is paramount. Once a component with a tribological coating is installed, it is critical that it lasts as long as it was designed to. This means that for tribological coating providers, efficiency and productivity and other business concerns are as important and ever, but only if the quality criteria are met. Because the idea to build this new Hauzer machine originated from our tribology experts, the Flexicoat 1250 was designed with exactly these priorities in mind.

Do you want to learn more about these trends or discuss further? You can contact Geert-Jan Fransen directly via the contacts below. Or do you want to know more about the new Flexicoat 1250 and what it can do for you and your business? Click here to explore.

Geert-Jan Fransen

T. +31 77 355 97 14 / M.