The inventors of the Plasma Transferred Wire Arc (PTWA) technology used to apply coatings on engine cylinder blocks have been named as National Inventors of the Year by the Intellectual Property Owners Education Foundation.
An aluminium engine block offers substantial weight savings to a vehicle, making it an attractive option for automakers looking for ways to reduce curb weight and, in turn, fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.
However, most aluminium engines require heavy cast-iron liners because of aluminium’s low wear resistance, somewhat offsetting the block’s initial leaner weight.
The new thermal spray coating process for cylinder bores replaces these heavy liners with a low-friction, wear-resistant coating that makes the engine lighter and more efficient.
The plasma-sprayed coating can reduce the weight of a V-6 engine, for instance, by approximately 6lb (2.7kg). It also reduces friction between the piston rings and the cylinder bore and improves oil and fuel economy as well as engine performance.
In addition, the PTWA coating process has been used to recycle damaged and worn aluminium and cast-iron engine blocks by applying the wear-resistant coating to the cylinder bore surface. Remanufacturing engines using the PTWA process requires 50 per cent to 80 per cent less energy to produce compared with a new manufactured engine block.
The inventors – Ford retiree James Baughman and Dr David Cook, Keith Kowalsky and Daniel Marantz of Flame-Spray Industries – picked up their award this week at the National Inventor of the Year Award ceremony in Washington, DC. Cook was a member of the Ford team when the spray device was initially developed.
Ford has 95 issued and pending patents related to the PTWA coating technology and will introduce it on its North American powertrain line-up within the next year.