ARCHIVED - Swimming on the Surface

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January 07, 2007— Ottawa, Ontario

It's almost the great North American cliché: out in the driveway on a hot summer weekend, washing the car – again. Imagine if, instead, your car could actually repel the dirt, freeing up what would have to be millions of leisure hours across America.

This is just one of the applications of surface technology that industry would like to see and that NRC researchers can help them develop.

In November 2006, NRC held a series of four workshops to bring together researchers with engineers, scientists and managers from the aerospace, biomedical, transportation and alternative energies sectors. More than 180 industry representatives participated, along with 80 NRC representatives from seven institutes and technology centres, together focused on industry needs over the coming years in each of these four sectors.

At the same time, the workshops provided an opportunity to let companies know about NRC research and development capabilities.

For instance, at the transportation workshop, held on November 14 at the NRC Integrated Manufacturing Technology Institute (NRC-IMTI) in London, Ontario, participants identified several areas where new technology is needed, for many different reasons.

Sometimes the need is for environmental reasons, such as surface coatings that can be recycled or that use safer materials than, for instance, the cadmium or chromate that is currently used to protect against corrosion.

Other times, health is the motivator, such as in the need to develop paints that do not emit volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. These compounds, which are found in everything from paint to household cleansers and dry-cleaned clothing, have been linked to short- and long-term health problems, including damage to the liver, kidneys and central nervous system as well as cancer.

Still other times, needs develop along with new practices. For instance, aluminum parts that used to be welded together are often now glued, which presents the need not only for a good adhesive, but also for a good cleaning process to prepare the surface for gluing.

Friction stir welding is a promising technology for the assembly of aluminium parts because it makes it possible to weld high strength aluminium alloys without having to go through their molten phase.
Friction stir welding is a promising technology for the assembly of aluminium parts because it makes it possible to weld high strength aluminium alloys without having to go through their molten phase.
?	AccuraSpray, a sensor specifically designed for industrial online monitoring of thermal spray processes. AccuraSpray is a technology patented by NRC-IMI and issued under license to Tecnar.
? AccuraSpray, a sensor specifically designed for industrial online monitoring of thermal spray processes. AccuraSpray is a technology patented by NRC-IMI and issued under license to Tecnar.

And that car coating that repels the dirt? Municipalities could also use such a coating on their subway trains and railway companies on their train cars to repel graffiti, making it ever harder to practice that dubious art form.

And transportation is only the beginning. In one of the newest developments in surface technology, coatings are used on implants in humans to ensure that the host – your body – doesn't react against the implant, but rather that the implant is compatible with your body. Having the right surface properties increases both the functionality and durability of the implants. With the aging of Canadian population, better implants will improve the quality of life of Canadians and reduce costs for our health care system.

NRC has very large capabilities in surface treatment and surface coating, says Christian Moreau, a Group Leader in Surface Technologies at the NRC Industrial Materials Institute (NRC-IMI), who coordinated the workshops.

"Our capabilities, though, are spread among the NRC Institutes, and these workshops were an opportunity to move above the Institute level and demonstrate the expertise that exists right across the organization," says Dr. Moreau.

NRC can help create better surface processes that are adapted to industrial needs, while providing the in-depth analysis, modeling and testing to provide a complete solution to industry needs.

"We can take advantage of the global expertise we have in having 4000 people working in different aspects of science and technology," says Dr. Moreau.

Tecnar Automation: A Canadian Success Story

In the early 1990s, scientists at NRC, led by Dr. Christian Moreau, developed thermal spray sensors. One of these sensors could be used to monitor and control the thermal spray processes by which surface coatings are applied.

Recognizing the market potential of this technology, the team went looking for a partner to commercialize it, and found Tecnar Automation Ltd., a Canadian company located in St. Bruno, Québec. Tecnar is an NRC spin-off company, a prime example of how NRC research leads to economic growth and development in Canada. The company started in 1989 based on a new welding process for pipes that had been developed at NRC-IMI. At the time Dr. Moreau's team was looking for a partner, Tecnar was looking for a new area in which to diversify. The two partners entered into a licensing agreement – and the rest, as they say, is history.

With the first product, DPV-2000, Dr. Moreau and his team had taken out patents and developed a prototype. DPV-2000 is used as a diagnostic tool for research as well as a monitoring tool on the production floor in the aeronautic, energy generation and automotive industries. Among its other abilities, it can measure and provide on-line monitoring of temperature, velocity and size of molten ceramic or metallic droplets used to build thermal spray coatings.

Over the years, NRC-IMI and Tecnar have continued to collaborate, working more and more closely. With the second product, for instance, NRC-IMI developed the idea and took out the patent, but it approached Tecnar to develop a commercial prototype. This product, AccuraSpray, is a simpler, cheaper and tougher version of the DPV-2000, better adapted for production floor. And now, with LayerGauge, the two partners have developed the first on-line coating thickness device for the thermal spray industry. The new device allows for precise, repeatable and operator-independent thickness measurement. This time, both Tecnar and NRC-IMI share the patent, reflecting the ever-closer nature of their collaboration.

Finding the right vehicle to commercialize isn't easy, says Dr. Moreau.

"You have to find good business sense, good technology expertise and good people to work with," he says. "With Tecnar, we found all three."

This is an unique example illustrating the NRC capabilities in developing new technolgies and participating in the wealth creation for Canada.


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