We partner with an SME active in innovative surface technologies. The company has successfully brought ion implantation to an industrial scale. Ion implantation of surfaces (of e.g. steel, Titanium, plastics, elastomers) is a low temperature treatment that results in a significant increase in hardness and a reduction of the friction coefficient without adding a layer. This makes it especially suited to replace PVD coatings where the coating can lead to detrimental effects or to treat parts that should not be heated. Applications include dimension and shape critical parts (e.g. containing sharp edges) and applications where coating delamination should be avoided at all cost (e.g. orthopaedic implants).
Although the technology has been known for many years, it stayed in an academic context due to the challenge of making it an economically viable option. Now this hurdle is taken, the market is ready to be conquered.
We have validated the market in a wide scope of areas (automotive, aerospace, kitchenware, tools & dies, bearings, production machinery,…) to understand the specific unmet needs of surface treatment in different applications as well as the hurdles to be taken before companies will/can switch to alternative surface treatments. This has resulted in the prioritisation of a selection of markets. Today the focus is on generating traction within these. Testing trajectories are ongoing with different players in the market.