When it’s cold outside, we humans put on jackets. When we’re working with something that might injure our hands, we put on gloves. When we’re playing football or hockey or baseball (whilst batting), and our noggins are in potential jeopardy, we put on helmets. In the interest of comfort and/or protection, we add outer layers made of materials that are stronger and more resilient than human flesh.
Machines face similar adversities, but they can’t just throw on a jacket, gloves, or a helmet to protect themselves. Luckily, there are brilliant science dudes and dudettes who’ve created rough equivalents that shield the mechanical equipment that makes our world go ‘round against extreme temperatures and physical damage.
Super High Speed Particles
Using incredibly complex, high-tech equipment, materials engineers (or something like that, anyway) blast special protective coatings onto machine parts. These coatings can be concocted from myriad materials, like ceramic, PTFE thermoplastic, and even powdered metals.
The specialized equipment used to apply these coatings shoots out tiny particles of the coating material at super high speeds; the particles literally splatter on the part surface and meld instantly with other blasted particles to create smooth and uniform coatings. Often, the coating material is heated to make it flow better from the applicator gun and congeal better upon impact. Essentially, these coatings are highly advanced paint jobs.
Multiple materials can be combined in this process to produce hybrid coatings that provide protection against a variety of outside forces. Similarly, multiple individual coatings of different materials can be applied on top of each other for added protection.
Diff’rent Coats for Diff’rent Folks Uses
As alluded to in the scintillating metaphorical passage that opened this post, there are different kinds of protective coatings that offer different kinds of protection against different hazards. With how smart the scientists who work on these kinds of things are, there’s probably a protective coating for just about every possible scenario: coatings to make surfaces easier to clean, coatings to deflect damaging UV rays from the sun, coatings to repel the red turtle shells from Mario Kart, the list goes on! (Probably.)
Using an actual, real world example, a thermal barrier coating can be used to help machinery perform better in extreme cold or heat. With the proper chemistry and application, they can be used to prevent slip-fit components from welding together under the continuous high heat caused by machine operations. Coatings like this are especially useful for exhaust system parts.
A coating designed to improve abrasion resistance may use different tactics to combat said abrasion. Sacrificial anti-abrasion coatings are designed to take the brunt of the abuse themselves while protecting the substrate parts underneath. Others create highly slick surfaces that cause potential abrasives to glance off without causing damage.
Who knew science could do such amazing things with a (seemingly) simple coat of (highly technologically advanced) spray paint?