Make your products more competitive with functional surfaces

Hydrophobic plastic surfaces, metal surfaces with controlled wetting properties, more wear-resistant machine parts ... the options are endless with structured surfaces. They provide added value to products, making them more competitive. Through a series of cases based on the needs of different sectors, Sirris will show you the potential.

Our Belgian manufacturing companies are experiencing increasing pressure from competing low-wage countries and ever stricter customer requirements (both in B2B and B2C environments). These trends compel manufacturing companies to look for new ways to capitalise on their activities and to increase the use of smarter, digital and interconnected production processes. Finally, it is also very important to make products with high added value, which therefore become more attractive on the international market.

Many products derive a large part of their functional properties from how their surfaces interact with the surroundings: a more aerodynamic, dirt-repellent bicycle helmet, a water-repellent container,.... The material a component is made can only create this type of surface functionality to a limited extent, and the choice of material is often dominated by the mechanical requirements of the piece. Moreover, different sectors have different needs and each have their own typical expectations of products. For example, an antibacterial effect is typically required for medical instruments, while objects used in cold climates benefit from ice-protection surfaces.

The technologies used

To maximize the value of a product, it is necessary to provide adequate surface functionality. There are two commonly used options for this purpose:

  • The application of another material in a thin surface layer (coating)
  • Structuring the surface (textures)

Coatings are a tried and tested method to give components extra functionality. Just think of hard, ceramic coatings which may increase the lifespan of tools or easy-to-clean coatings which make surfaces water-repellent. However, in addition to a wide range of commercially available products, innovations can also add functionality and, therefore value, in sometimes unexpected places. Besides, switching from the ‘need for a coating’ to ‘using of a specific coating in a certain way and with a certain process’ is not always easy. It is a complex decision-making process which requires in-depth knowledge of all steps.

Textures, or structured surfaces, are a less well-known and therefore less frequent way of applying functionalities. Nevertheless, this method is also applied to perfection in nature. Just think of the hydrophobic surface of the lotus leaf or the hydrodynamic skin of a shark. However, applying functionalities by means of textures on technical components is more than simply copying the textures from nature. The texture geometry and the technology to apply them both play an important role in this.

A surface for each necessity?

To inform and inspire you, Sirris starts a blog series with practical examples of functionalities and functional surfaces that provide added value. This is a first step to start working with these technologies on your own products and raise them to a higher level. In this series we will each time consider typical needs that exist in different markets and sectors, including: healthcare, consumer goods, climate,.... At the end of the series we will join these different texts in a casebook.

Do you want to keep up-to-date with this series and receive a copy of our casebook? Register here!