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Report by the Surface Engineering and Advanced Coatings SIG

Posted on 13/09/2016

An update on the challenges and priorities for UK Industry used extensive consultation with industry and leading researchers to identify key actions and issues.

Vital to the success of the UK engineering and manufacturing industries - H63 Surface Engineering and Advanced Coatings.

H63 Surface Engineering and Advanced Coatings are vital to the success of the UK engineering and manufacturing industries. Many products, from aero engines to razor blades, use a treated surface creating cost-effective, high performance parts with a functional surface exactly where it is required. An update on the challenges and priorities for UK Industry, published by the Knowledge Transfer Network, used extensive consultation with industry and leading researchers to identify key actions and issues.

A report by the KTN-led Surface Engineering and Advanced Coatings SIG (SEAC SIG) has identified some clear strengths for the UK and have confirmed that the application of surface engineering and advanced coatings underpins most industrial and manufacturing sectors and is vital to the success of many commercial and industrial products and the creation of competitive advantage. The established UK supply chain has a culture of innovation and effectively uses the existing support programmes to innovate its products and services. The research base has strong, long term, industrial contacts and international links. It works with industry through projects covering each innovation type (i.e. step change, evolutionary and enabling development) and at TRLs 1 – 7.

The SIG’s findings showed that major end user sectors still rely on well tried and tested coating technologies, such as the aerospace sector which uses electroplating (26%), engineering paints (20%), 17% taken by hard facing and thermal spraying; about 16% of the aerospace sector is held by cadmium plating but this is the only significant sector demanding cadmium coatings. Similarly, the automotive industry is dominated by engineering paints (48%), zinc coating (16%) and electroplating (14%). The electronics industry is heavily reliant on electroplating with over 75% of the coatings used in the industry, although a further 15% is held by engineering paints.

It is clear that the UK manufacturing sector is extremely dependent on established SEAC technologies but its future is equally dependent on the ability of the SEAC industry to develop new and alternative systems. If SEAC technologies in the UK are to support an increasing higher valued end user manufacturing processes, and thrive in increasingly competitive global markets, the industry must develop its capabilities to provide the service and confidence that customers are seeking. The research base, supply chain and end-users need to be better integrated to incorporate the principles of design for manufacture and design for process excellence. The report also outlines a number of challenges that should be addressed by initiatives to raise the confidence and understanding of potential customers who would benefit from using SEAC technologies.