Monitoring technology for quality improvements and increased operational performance


Monitor Coatings Limited, the Castolin Eutectic subsidiary and surface engineering specialist in North Tyneside, was funded by UK’s Innovation Agency to investigate the elements within the Acoustic Emissions (AE) of the thermal spray process that contain information about the coating quality.

 

The objective of the study was to develop next generation on-line monitoring that can  detect deviations from the optimum spraying conditions at an early stage, enabling prompt correction and greatly reducing product rejections and re-coating compared to the inadequate post-spray quality check.

Airborne acoustic emissions monitoring has shown promise as a novel on-line, non-destructive monitoring technology for the low temperature thermal spray coating process. Although still in the prototype phase, the developed monitoring system can give the thermal spray operator warning of excessive nozzle wear, blocked or leaky gas lines, inappropriate gas flow rates and unintentionally reduced powder feed rate. Continued research into this method of process monitoring will surely prove worthwhile to the thermal spray industry and others.

Dr Spyros Kamnis, Monitor Coatings’ Research and Development Manager said: ‘I'm delighted that Innovate UK have been able to support another exciting study.  Large enterprises operating globally are challenged with shorter product lifecycles, globalisation of operations, and demand to move more complex products to market faster while maintaining the highest quality standards. These competitive times demand an easy-to-use solution to centrally monitor and manage quality-related operations across the enterprise. The AE prototype concept is a flexible system that makes quality management easier by connecting and automating quality related activities throughout the organisation. Live and historic spray data will be available to a database enabling issues that affect quality to be quickly identified and resolved—even across global operations and into the supplier network."

Alex Marrs, an undergraduate Materials Engineering student at Loughborough University, was appointed by Castolin Eutectic - Monitor Coatings in September 2017 on a 12 month placement.  Alex quickly developed interest in Monitor Coatings’ growing portfolio of collaborative Research & Development programmes, with the majority of work centred on the Acoustic Emissions study. The studies success is a tribute to Alex’s continued support, enthusiasm and dedication. “I am grateful to Monitor Coatings for the opportunity to work on such an interesting and exploitable project during my internship. This research shows that Monitor Coatings not only keeps up with, but leads innovation in its field, especially with respect to the implementation of automation to improve quality and overall process efficiency.  Working with Castolin Eutectic - Monitor Coatings has been an invaluable experience, as I have been able to be a part of their continued success in research and industry. I am proud of my contribution to the airborne acoustic emissions project and will transfer the enthusiasm and knowledge I have gained here into my current and future projects, of which I hope there will be many."