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Hybrid coating shortens delivery times for functional metallic components

The SMaC process

SMaC technology offers considerable economic and technological advantages, especially when difficult-to-machine, high-strength coatings are applied. (Image: Fraunhofer ILT)

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT have developed a new hybrid process that allows materials to be machined and coated simultaneously.

The process, called Simultaneous Machining and Coating (SMaC), combines laser material deposition with turning, grinding or milling to let manufacturers produce coatings for corrosion and wear protection.

Coatings protect components from damage and wear, and can save energy with insulating or reflecting properties. But the problem with high-strength coatings is that they're hard to post-process. The researchers claim SMaC solves this by using heat generated in the process to make the coating softer, allowing faster mechanical processing at higher speeds and lower costs. They also say that SMaC may stop companies from having to wait long periods of time for functional metallic components.

SMaC can be applied to the energy, mobility, mining and chemical industries, or wherever highly stressed, rotationally symmetrical components are required. In the chemical industry, for example, surfaces have to withstand highly aggressive substances. Mining tools on the other hand have to be protected against abrasive wear and tear. 

The process is suitable for applications in which components were previously coated and machined subsequently. It can be used, for example, to produce coatings for corrosion and wear protection, coatings with hard and soft magnetic properties or to produce extremely resistant plain bearing coatings and other functional surfaces.

“We have combined mechanical machining with extreme high-speed laser material deposition EHLA in a single process step,” explains Viktor Glushych, head of the Coating LMD and Heat Treatment group at Fraunhofer ILT.

“This allows us to shorten processing times significantly,” he says – by more than 60%, according to the researchers – and “extends the service life, operating cycles and maintenance intervals of components, assemblies and entire machines.”

“This increases the raw material and energy efficiency of the components and minimises machine downtimes.”

Glyushych already envisions how the SMaC process can be applied in future.

“In the context of the upcoming Euro 7 regulations” he said, “EHLA coating of brake discs is considered a very promising solution to reduce particulate emissions during braking. With Simultaneous Coating and Machining, we can manufacture certain brake disc coatings faster and more productively.” 

Another application we want to test is the production of multi-material coatings in battery technology,” Glyushych added.