The Benefits of Protective Metal Coatings
There is virtually no end to the list of applications and environments in which protective metal coatings can deliver significant performance improvements. Military and defence, transport, manufacturing, construction, food-processing, automotive, aerospace, agriculture and even healthcare rely on these treatments every day.
Every industry that employs mechanical equipment faces the constant threats of corrosion and abrasion. For millennia, the only defence available was paint with enamels appearing in the Middle Ages. Today there are several highly effective methods, including electroplating and thermal plasma spray, to protect valuable machinery from wear and tear, accidents and the environment.
Metal coatings protect the substrate beneath by taking the brunt of corrosive and abrasive forces. Corrosion is usually a slow, progressive process but modern coatings don’t merely resist it but react to absorb its effects. Even if the coating is gradually breaking down, the underlying material is safe and in most cases the coating can be renewed to preserve it indefinitely.
Anti-abrasion properties work on a similar principle. The coating has a much tougher surface than the object it is protecting so is able to take significant punishment, leaving the substrate unaffected. Extremes of temperature, storms and sunlight as well as the rigours of operational use can all be deflected by the right metal coating – but it is always important to select a coating substance that is appropriate to the hazard and compatible with the protected material.
Types of coating
Many different protective coatings are currently in use. The finishing industry experimented with many types of plastic in the decades after WWII but today metal coatings are usually preferred because technology has made them easier to apply.
Electroplating is the method commonly used for the protection of large exterior surfaces like those found in cars, trains, planes and heavy plant. Hot-dip galvanizing is another option, for example when you need the strength of steel and the corrosion resistance of zinc for roofing. For more intricate applications – such as reinforcing seals, barriers and smaller moving parts – the ideal method is a thermal plasma spray. It is also the most versatile, with combinations of molybdenum, copper, aluminium, titanium, nickel and many other substances available to provide precisely the qualities you need.
The forces of nature are always presenting us with new challenges and for that reason protective metal coatings will continue to evolve and offer new opportunities for manufacturing industries.