Russian hard case acquires Western values

A Russian-developed coating technology designed to extend the lifespan of steel and alloy components made its debut on the London Stock Exchange this week.



The firm producing Hardide, a technology originally developed at MoscowStateUniversity and commercialised by an Oxfordshire-based engineering team, joined London’s Alternative Investment Market to raise funds for its ambitious expansion plans.



The newly-formed Hardide plc said it would use the cash raised by the flotation to develop its presence in the US and around the world, and on capital equipment for its Bicester production facility.



Hardide is a surface engineering technology that is claimed to deliver ultra-hardness, low friction and chemical resistance to materials coated with it.



The coating process is performed in a chemical vapour deposition furnace. Components to be treated are heated to between 500ºC and 650ºC before being subjected to a controlled mixture of gases. A chemical reaction crystallises the gases on the surface of the component to form a smooth layer of binder-free tungsten carbide.



Hardide claimed its technology has potential applications across a number of large industrial markets. These include the oil and gas sectors, where the company said the coating could be used to prolong the life of drilling components, reducing expensive down-time at bore holes.



Hardide also has its eyes on the valves and pumps markets where it claimed productivity could be increased by delivering more robust components.



The company said it had already made progress in these important markets, with orders from major customers already secured.



The AIM flotation, which valued the company at just under £13m, makes Hardide one of the more prominent examples of technology from the former Soviet Union being commercialised for application on the world stage.



While frequently unattuned to Western commercial practices, Russia’s universities and research centres are seen as a potentially rich seam of new technologies, particularly in the industrial and general engineering sectors.