Thermal spray internal specifications

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While thermal spray coatings find applications in a variety of industries including pulp and paper, printing, pump and valve, infrastructure applications, medical and aerospace, we will limit ourselves in this post to thermal spray coatings for aerospace applications. Companies that deal with applications of thermal spray coatings for aerospace applications are generally required to meet customer supplied specifications and have to certify that the hardware that has been coated meets the necessary thermal spray specifications that have been put forth by the aerospace customer which generally leads back to the OEM. While meeting the OEM aerospace thermal spray coatings specifications is sufficient to ship hardware and thus maintain your good quality standing, some companies tend to develop internal standards and internal specifications that EXCEED the OEM specs. Now, what is the point in working harder than needed, one might ask. After all, the payment for the thermal spray coatings service is going to be the same whether the specification was simply met or exceeded. That is exactly what differentiates between being simply a thermal spray coatings house and being a great thermal spray coatings house.

Greatness in any field requires work that far exceeds the minimum required to accomplish the task. A great chef may take additional effort in garnishing the foods that has been cooked. He or she may take extra pains to make sure that the food is presented nicely to the hungry guests. A great comedian may spend a lot of time in fine tuning his pitch and make sure that the delivery is just perfect. The same is applicable to the controls of thermal spray coatings. Internal standards should be developed that exceed the customer supplied specifications. For example, a certain aerospace specification for plasma sprayed T-800 could ask for a minimum R15N of 83. Develop internal standards that require a minimum of 85. Or a certain specification could require that the porosity level be less than 15 percent. Develop internal standards that require the porosity level to be less than ten percent. Now, simply developing an internal standard by writing up a document does not mean anything. It is essential that you develop the proper spray parameters to be able to accomplish the same every single time. This requires tremendous engineering and process optimization and sometimes even ingenuity when the specifications have high standards to begin with. For example, accomplishing a tighter than commonly acceptable levels of oxides in the cleanest HVOF T-800 coating, may require that you purchase powders with much tighter sieve size control than what the powder specification calls for. Or in another instance, you may need to change the position of the gun cooling water entry point and so on. Hence engineering and processing effort will have to be put forth to accomplish the tighter internal standard.

The internal standards tightening does not need to stop simply with raising the bar on metallurgical characteristics of the coating. You could tighten up thermal spray operator qualification standards, booth release standards, powder control standards and so on. By doing so and ensuring that you meet your internal tighter standards every time, you are assured never to have a quality issue meeting the OEM quality standards. But of course, the bottom line of every business is profitability and how does developing internal standards generate greater profitability and improve the bottom line of the thermal spray business. Very easily. By avoiding quality problems, your quality rating with the aerospace OEM goes up and vendors with higher quality ratings are generally given preference over vendors with lower quality ratings when it comes to awarding contracts. This means more sales, more revenue and therefore more profits. Additionally, with high quality levels designed into processing, re-work is greatly reduced and the cost of quality goes down which leads to increased profits. But it is the third factor that interests me the most. And that is, once you have developed tighter internal standards for the particular OEM specification and have confirmed beyond doubt that you can reproduce it every single time, approach the OEM to tighten up their specifications to your internal standards. Aerospace companies are always interested in higher quality hardware and processing and if they take up on your request and do tighten up the specifications, then all of your competitors that were satisfied with simply meeting the old specifications will not be able to step up and meet the higher standards put forth. This means that all their work will start flowing towards your company, which means more sales, profits and improved bottom line. See, one way or the other the bean counters and accounting always get their way!

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