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Mönchengladbach, April 12, 2022

The future of coating

The new Coating Competence Center of SMS group

They extend the service life of offshore wind-powered electrical generators, of gas and water pipes. Moreover, they can be used for preparing expensive wear parts in an economical and resource-saving way. We are talking about innovative coatings – true multi-talents with enormous potential. But how can we tap this potential if we don’t know what challenge comes next? The answer is: jointly. With an experienced partner who, at the same time, is willing to question existing solutions: What kind of method is best suited for what purpose?  What is the perfect coating material for the planned application? Will it pay off? What new coating solutions are there? And how does digitalization help with this?

SMS group provides answers to all these questions. The group’s worldwide coating know-how converges in the new Coating Competence Center (CCC). Here, the latest development activities are tried and tested jointly with strategic partners from science and industry until they are ready for industrial use. All with the aim to support international customers with holistic services and develop new solutions in the worldwide SMS group coating facilities. The CCC is working on novel coatings as a substitute for hard chromium, for example, and on optimized coating systems for copper plates used in continuous casting processes.

One partner, all services
With the Coating Competence Center, we have got a central unit that networks and supports our existing coating sites around the globe. In this way, we develop coating solutions for our customers around the world that are precisely tailored to their needs. Ulli Oberste-Lehn, Project Manager Coating Competence Center of SMS group

The CCC sees itself as a flexible partner who delivers solutions meeting the requirements for each specific use - from the development of new coating layers to the provision of services. Prof. Dr.-Ing. Katja Windt, Member of the Managing Board of SMS group, supplements: "The newly created Coating Competence Center is further proof of SMS group being well positioned for the future when it comes to special technologies. The center benefits from our many years of experience in the coating of furnace rolls, zinc bath rolls and copper plates for continuous casting applications. Here, we develop technologies that help our customers achieve higher plant availability, among others. Supported by our digital solutions for predictive asset optimization, we can actively extend the service life of plant components and avoid unplanned downtimes."

To this end, the SMS group experts also cooperate with universities ensuring that knowledge is exchanged and transferred at the highest level. In addition, regular quality controls are carried out in the laboratory of the CCC.

"We have set ourselves ambitious goals and are aware that we cannot achieve them on our own. That's why we founded the CCC on the basis of long-term partnerships with scientific institutes and plant operators," explains Oberste-Lehn. "Of course, we also work with conventional one-off contracts, but what we primarily offer are performance-based models that allow the customer to focus on his core processes and secure the positive profit contribution of the SMS solution during the contract period."

More sustainability through modern coatings

Coatings are an important factor when it comes to sustainability. And the trend keeps on growing. This is because, in addition to significant cost and process benefits, they ensure an extended life cycle of plant components and thus prevent construction or installation of new equipment - and the considerable energy and resource consumption associated with it.

The role of coatings in terms of carbon footprint will continue to grow significantly in the future Ulli Oberste-Lehn, Project Manager Coating Competence Center of SMS group

One of the processes used for this work is the PERFECT spray® (Wire Arc Spraying) arc spraying system. It permits heavily loaded components that have been worn or damaged during operation to be repaired by means of thermal coating. PERFECT spray® is a development for a new field of application and based on SMS group’s PERFECT arc® digital welding technology. Ulli Oberste-Lehn says: "In this way, we think technologies ahead to the benefit of our customers and efficiently pave the way for new applications."

In addition, the Coating Competence Center, with its globally connected coating sites, uses technologies such as high-velocity oxygen fuel spraying (HVOF), plasma spraying and buildup welding, and offers extensive support to customers and partners. For example, the wear of copper plates can be reduced by a factor of 2 to 4 in comparison with conventional coatings thanks to the inhouse developed UNIGUARDTM coating. Further optimization of the coating systems used is part of an ongoing development project at the CCC.

The journey has just begun

From higher resistance to wear, corrosion or temperature to optimized properties such as improved tribology, self-lubrication or non-stick surfaces - the range of coating applications is already wide today. And yet, according to the SMS experts, this is just the beginning. "Anyone who wants to get to know, advance and benefit from the trend-setting possibilities and opportunities of modern coatings should talk to us. We can offer the bundled know-how of interdisciplinary teams - from coaters to process experts to plant engineers and digital experts. All parties interact perfectly. Our activities in the Coating Competence Center are not restricted to optimizing existing solutions, but we also research and work intensively on promising processes that open up completely new perspectives to our customers and to the markets," says Oberste-Lehn, describing the growth potential.

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Katja Windt concludes by emphasizing the relationship with the customer: "It is important to us that we develop solutions not only for our customers, but jointly with them. Being close to our customers, we know their challenges and can develop specific solutions on a partnership basis. This creates new future prospects for coating technologies that bring our customers substantial savings in process costs and quality improvements in the end product."

The core services offered by the Coating Competence Center at a glance:
  • Execution of coating orders for customers
  • Technical consulting on coating systems
  • New developments and verifications
  • Test coatings for field trials
  • Support with documentation and specifications
  • Training and best-practice workshops worldwide