The AMCC was born out of a need
First and foremost, the concept for our center was seeded from a specific need. Aqueous chrome plating is used as a fundamental coating in a wide range of industries including aerospace, heavy equipment, automotive, recreational vehicles and others. However, the activity of aqueous chrome plating has become increasingly difficult in recent years. That’s because external forces in the form of government regulation designed to protect against the health and environmental hazards of hexavalent chrome have increased the cost of chrome plating and has burdened facilities performing plating services with extensive regulation and paperwork.
However, guess what? The U.S. consumer, actually the global consumer continues to demand products with the premium appearance of chrome.
So, how does industry react when confronted with these external forces such as heavy regulation? Well, they either absorb the increased costs or are forced to offshore these jobs to low cost countries that, oh by the way, may not have such stringent environmental regulation. They find themselves forced to do this just to maintain the business. As a result, U.S. jobs are lost.
In an attempt to develop alternative processes to aqueous chrome plating that are environmentally friendly and cost competitive, companies can perform R&D processes on panels and test for performance. However, OEMs prefer to field test actual components in the field to confirm performance results. Developing a process on a panel is one thing. Panels are small, simple and flat. Developing this process for a large part with difficult configurations presents clearly another set of problems.
However, few facilities exist where processes can be developed from start to finish- a facility capable of mimicking all of the requirements necessary for large or complex configurations inclusive of pretreatment, primer, PVD application, and topcoat. It’s extremely difficult to develop a process on large components with unique requirements even when you may have access to a few captive systems spread across the country as they are not likely to be capable of processing such a large and difficult part.
Thus, the AMCC was born out of this need to create a flexible facility capable of developing PVD processes on even the largest and most complex configurations. What is unique about our system is that it is capable of coating very large parts through every stage of the process while at the same time enabling us to trial any number of pretreat, primer, PVD, and topcoat combinations on ferrous, non-ferrous and temperature sensitive substrates. This facility was designed to be a one-stop shop for complete process development related to PVD application. Our overall initiative, as required by the State of Ohio, is to develop near-term processes for PVD application for customers interested in exploring the technology.
Collaborators helped make the difference
Our success, of course, has been delivered as a result of a customer-facing team effort. The city of Lima has contributed substantially to the planning and resource facilitation for this project and continues this role. American Trim, once again the commercial collaborator in this project, has invested well in excess of their $1.5 MM in cost share as anticipated given our grant parameters. By the way, this figure does not include funds spent during their earlier commercialization phases.