Innovation on the Rennsteig
GBneuhaus stands for innovation from Thuringia. "Founded in 1991 as a small family business, we have constantly developed ourselves and our product portfolio and have thus become a sought-after and competent service partner for innovative and high-performance thin-film systems," summarises Petry. "Our functional coatings are now in demand worldwide. That makes us proud. Above all, however, it motivates us to build on the successes of the past three decades and continue to work every day to make the world a little better thanks to our coating solutions."
As a specialist in dip coating glass, particularly for the automotive industry, the company has also developed spray coating under cleanroom conditions as a thin-film technology in recent years. This enables the coating of complex 3D geometries on glass, metal and plastics.
Typical functional coatings include optical, mechanical and chemically resistant functional coatings (UV protection, scratch protection, etc.) as well as biological protective coatings with an antimicrobial or antiviral effect. For example, the antimicrobial coating SANPURE® has been proven to be effective against bovine coronavirus (BoCV' strain: S379 Riems). This product, which is based on a silver salt coating technology, has now been successfully applied using spray technology.
The realisation of reproducible and homogeneous spray coatings with layer thicknesses of 0.6 to eight micrometres - depending on the function - places extremely high demands on the purity of the surfaces and the avoidance of particle ingress during the entire coating process, as the ingress of particles in the order of one micrometre already completely damages the surface. "The idea behind our project was to completely redevelop the previous test system," says the company boss. "Based on production under cleanroom conditions, the upstream and downstream technology steps of pre-treatment, activation and cross-linking/vapour deposition are also included in the EX-protected cleanroom production and the entire process is fully automated to prevent human intervention. Such technology and system concepts were previously unknown in the state of the art."
As the coating technology process is heavily dependent on the ambient conditions (temperature, humidity, pressure, etc.) and the optimum conditions vary between the technology stages, the challenge is to realise the individual technology steps in air-separated or encapsulated production modules and to prevent the entry of particles into downstream stages. In addition, the use of new cleaning and activation processes must be tested and parameterised in order to achieve surface purity.
The aim of the project was therefore to develop a production technology and a test facility for functional spray coating which, in addition to the points mentioned above, can produce functional coatings
- with cycle times of 90 seconds with 25 workpiece carriers
- for workpieces measuring 800 x 800 x 200 millimetres
- for layer thicknesses from 0.6 to eight micrometres
- with layer thickness tolerances of up to +/- 0.1 micrometres
can be realised.
The final implementation of the innovative pilot plant enables the free parameterisation of the environment and technology for different coatings, surfaces and processes. The coating technology for selected optical, mechanical and antimicrobial coatings was developed as part of the project and the functionality of the system was demonstrated.
"This is a huge step forward in the development of new coatings and transparency-enhancing optical coatings on various materials and will play a major role in the field of autonomous driving in particular," says Head of Research & Development, Dr Elina Oks. Managing Director Michael Petry sees this as an important and necessary strategic step into the future of the company.
Project manager Christoph Wenzel, who together with his team is largely responsible for the successful commissioning of the pilot plant, is also proud of the work carried out on the project. "The project was successfully realised despite supply bottlenecks caused by the pandemic and geopolitical crises of the last three years. We are now looking forward to designing further developments and innovative solutions with our customers."
The funding and support provided by the Thüringer Aufbaubank as part of the research, technology and innovation project funding programme was essential for the implementation of such a complex and innovative project.