Surface technology: Prerequisite for intelligent and functional surfaces
In general, materials are designed to meet predefined property requirements, such as strength, elasticity, and heat resistance, or to meet the requirements of a production process. If components have to fulfill specific additional needs, this is often only possible using special surface technologies. Intelligent surface technologies such as pretreatments and coatings are able to improve the properties of materials and components or provide them with additional functions.
The expertise of Fraunhofer IFAM covers the whole process chain of surface technology from materials’ development to the characterization and evaluation of surfaces, their functionalization and modification, and on to various application methods. The development of processes and technologies such as dry and wet chemical pretreatment, coating processes, printing processes, thin/thick film technologies, and also quality assurance are key areas of the work. The characterization and evaluation of surfaces using chemical, electrochemical, and structural analyses are important aspects of the institute's work, as is the application of various simulation methods.
The experts at Fraunhofer IFAM have comprehensive knowledge of customized surface modification and functionalization. This includes the cleaning and activation of surfaces and suitable pretreatment prior to coating or bonding. The functional attributes of surfaces are very varied and depend on the respective application. Surfaces can be customized with low-drag, anti-icing, dirt-repellent, anti-fouling, antibacterial, and biocompatible properties. Specific tribological or optical requirements as well as sensor functions can also be provided. In addition, a very wide spectrum of application methods can be used, ranging from the laboratory scale and pilot plants to scale up for (large) series production.
Quality assurance is an important aspect of surface technology. In-line quality assurance concepts and test methods, which allow constant process monitoring, are developed at Fraunhofer IFAM. The institute possesses accredited test facilities, which are also utilized for failure/damage analysis. Special training courses are given, so facilitating the transfer of surface technologies to industrial practice.