“PVD coating has gained popularity over time”

Surface treatment of tools and components is increasingly becoming important in manufacturing industries. With new materials, new geometries, new techniques and higher processing speeds, innovations in tooling are at its peak.
“PVD coating has gained popularity over time”
Surface treatment of tools and components is increasingly becoming important in manufacturing industries. With new materials, new geometries, new techniques and higher processing speeds, innovations in tooling are at its peak. But these innovations are restricted due to tribological challenges such as wear, friction and heat developed during machining. Physical Vapour Deposition (PVD) is the leading technology that addresses these challenges by producing new coatings with desirable tribological performance as well as mechanical properties, says Dr Umesh Mhatre, Managing Director, Surface Modification Technologies Pvt Ltd. In this interview, Dr Mhatre sheds light on the importance of PVD technology for surface treatment and growth plans for the company.
 
Could you please with us Surface Modification Technologies’ business?
Surface Modification Technologies (SMT) is a leading surface engineering company which delivers surface enhancement solutions in the ?eld of metal ?nishing and coating through the high-performance Physical Vapor Deposition (PVD) coating processes, at times even customised to individual requirements. The company has been engaged in delivering surface enhancement solutions to a wide spectrum of a variety of industries for over 14 years now, offering both standard as well as tailor-made coating solutions to augment the performance of various cutting tools, forming tools, dies, moulds as well as components, used in the engineering, pharmaceutical, textile, agriculture & aerospace industries. SMT’s dazzling bouquet of glittering decorative coatings blends with and thereby complement the needs of various segments of decorative industries. State-of-Art glittering colour coatings thus add a jewel to the SMT crown.
 
Why surface treatment is important for industries? Which end-user industries are major users of surface enhancement solutions?
In modern engineering processes, production units are under tremendous pressure due to the continues expectation of reduce cost, improve productivity and higher quality demands. To satisfy these expectations, innovations in tooling are at its peak with new materials, new geometries, new techniques and higher processing speeds. But these innovations are restricted due to tribological challenges such as wear, friction and heat developed during machining. Therefore, along with these innovations, surface treatment of these tools and components has also become very much important factor to address these challenges.
 
Physical Vapour Deposition (PVD) is the leading technology that addresses these challenges very efficiently and effectively due to its capacity to tailor coating properties as per the need. Although, this technology is not yet explored to its potential due to the complex nature, automotive, textile and aerospace industries have been benefited to the great extent. Decorative industry is also adopted these technology to produce long lasting glittering colour shades. Watch industry is one of the good examples. 
 
What are the advantages of PVD coating processes?
PVD technology has ability to produce new coatings with desirable tribological performance as well as mechanical properties. PVD coating has gained popularity over time due to its eco-friendly nature, unique durability (tribological) features and wide range of industrial applications. It is fundamentally a broad class of various vaporisation coating technique, involving transfer of material on an atomic level along with reactive gases to form thin solid films (1 micron-5 microns). These thin solid films can be tailored with improved properties compared to the substrate material. Almost any type of inorganic material can be used as deposition source under vacuum conditions. 
The flexibility of coating processes, high wear and corrosion resistance, an ability to maintain high hardness even at elevated operating temperatures (up to 1100oC) are the basic unique features of the coatings deposited by PVD technique. These coatings are extremely fined grained and dense. Being high temperature and ionic process, the coatings are diffused into the underlying metal, the adhesion bond is perfect. In the context of cutting tools, low thermal conductivity properties of these coatings also eliminate cold welding and chip building-up. 
 
Could you please highlight some emerging trends in surface treatment? How is your company tapping these trends?
Smart manufacturing is expected to produce smart surfaces. Therefore tailoring the material surfaces to impart appropriate functionality under given working conditions is the important role of surface treatments. Designing of an appropriate coating composition, structure, related processes and equipment to enhance corrosion and wear protection, hydrophobicity, catalysis, high temperature oxidation resistance, self-cleaning surfaces, etc are the challenges in emerging markets.
 
PVD technologies are no long behind in the race. From single and multi-layered coating to recently commercialised nano-structured coatings has given tremendous boost to the manufacturing industry by addressing many of these challenges. SMT’s research and development (R&D) group is continuously engaged understanding the needs of industry to design the coatings as per the need of industry. Our multi-layer and nano-structured coatings are working in the industry. 
 
Along with the technology improvement, promotion of the potential of this technology in different industries is also important. Currently, automotive industry is the only industry enjoying the benefits of this technology. But now various other industries such as medical, pharmaceutical, textile, agriculture also started using these technological benefits. Designing appropriate working surfaces is also emerging trend in surface treatment technologies. These are also potential emerging markets of PVD technology. 
 
How is SMT helping customers in their journey towards modernisation?
As we all know, having best surface treatment does not guarantee best performance.  A complete system of construction must be in line with expected results. Therefore right from material of construction, design, material core treatment and surface treatment are very important. At SMT, we do consider all these aspects before suggesting or designing any PVD coating for surface treatment. We are not just coating provider. We are total solution provider for engineering industry. 
 
Although, PVD coating is our core expertise, we do have association with many local and international research organisations for understanding the engineering problems and addressing them with appropriate solutions. These solutions do include modifications of material, machine upgradation and sourcing of global quality standards and testing facilities as required. 
 
What are your views on Government’s Make in India initiative, which has completed 5 years this September? 
Make in India is a great initiative. This is the process of demonstrating the capacity of Indian brain to the whole world. Of course this is helping us in many other ways as a country. This will create many entrepreneurs and more jobs in our country and make the economy strong. To achieve the dream of $5-trillian economy, Make in India is must. But, this initiative needs much more refining to meet industry’s need as we see implementation is very week. We hope the government will pursue this initiative to the grass root level in near future.   
 
‘Smart Manufacturing’ is not always about investing in new technologies & machines, but to optimally use the existing infrastructure and machines. Do you agree with this statement? Can you share your experience in this regard?
Yes, I agree. Smart manufacturing is set of various activities and practises used in industry. New technologies and machines are just one part of it. For an example, PVD coating industry do use high-end as well as conventional coating machine to produce similar coatings for different applications and vice versa. It all depends upon the market to whom you cater to. When we talk about the term ‘Smart’, we must know what to use where. Optimum resources for maximum quality output is must. 
 
What steps should be taken to make SMEs ‘smart manufacturing’ units?
SMEs, which are very important link of the same chain, need to become ‘smart manufacturing’ hubs. On Indian scenario, apart from new technologies and machines, SMEs need to be supported by operational knowledge, education and best industrial practises. Encouraging Government policies and ease of doing business also should be part of this initiative. 
 
How do you intend to take your company to next level? 
We are surface engineering company and wish to promote our technology on pan India platform. Being a technology company, we strive to inculcate the habit in us of constantly moving forward, innovating, developing technology and creating new business from innovation. SMT is a milestone in the journey to the future technologies and business. Currently, we have three coating centres and two manufacturing centres in India. We plan to cross many more such milestones. In future, we plan to develop more fertile applications and surface modi?cation technologies that can benefit various sectors of Indian industry and support Industry 4.0 revolution.
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