OUR GREAT MINDS

    by Tina Olivero

    Harber Coatings: Invents Revolutionary High-Performance Coatings

    When an industry faces a harsh downturn for two years, there is a critical need gain efficiencies, optimization and reliability.  That’s a global trend. And in the coatings industry its leading minds that have come up with optimal gains that support sustainable long-term cost reductions and higher efficiency.

    Replacement and repair of damaged equipment are the largest maintenance requirement in various industries, especially oil and gas, and can be minimized with such a peak-performing coating.

    At Canadian company Harber Coatings, the invention of InnoGUARD coating solution provides a lifetime guarantee against flaking and peeling, in corrosive and high-temperature environments. The objective with their coatings was to gain over 20 times more working life out of critical assets, such that coating costs becomes minimal in the grand scheme of things. Adding long-term value and economical operational success far outweighs the minimal upfront investment, especially when the company offers a lifetime no flaking or peeling warranty on their coating.

    Harber Coatings is focused on significantly reducing the replacement cost of parts, tools and downtime in the field for their clients. They are proud to be the only ENC facility in North America with 45ft. Coating tanks that make its proprietary formulas from raw chemicals, and offers a lifetime no flaking or peeling warranty on a metallic coating. In this economy, many types of customers are seeking a superior coating for a lower price to get more use out of their equipment.  Although Harber Coatings has been primarily focused on the oil & gas industry, they can coat and protect almost any metal substrate. 

    Harber president and chief executive officer Zhen (Ken) Wang developed an electroless nickel coating (ENC) technology called InnoGUARD. In 2002, Ken Wang founded Harber Industry Inc. (later transferred to Harber Coatings Inc.) in Calgary, Alberta. The vision was to improve the stability of the Electroless Nickel Coating (ENC) product with unique formulas and custom processing technologies – ultimately perfecting a superior coating solution compared to anything currently in the market. Through his research and discovery, Ken developed a proprietary formula for Electroless Nickel Coatings that had astonishing industrial applications. InnoGUARD’s claim to fame is providing a coating solution with a lifetime guarantee against flaking and peeling, in corrosive and high-temperature environments. It is typically used to coat spools, downhole tools, wellhead equipment, valves and pump equipment – any industrial metal surface that is prone to corrosion and abrasion.

    Ken Wang explains the technology that he and his team have perfected, “Harber Coatings Inc.’s InnoGUARDTM Flakeless ENC (Electroless Nickel Coating) is a unique, proprietary formula and fully integrated technology coating process, of high phosphorous-nickel alloy deposited on a metal substrate. The superior coated surface does not flake or peel when mechanically impacted or placed in highly corrosive environments with extreme temperature changes. The proven coating process prevents corrosion from high chlorides, H2S, CO2, oxygen, steam, brine water, etc.  Therefore, guaranteeing long-term cost benefits and preventing unnecessarily discarded parts polluting the environment.”

    The proprietary InnoGUARDTM ENC  solution effectively coats parts with sharp edges, deep recesses, weld seams, threads and blind holes without negatively impacting function and for the same cost to coat the inside and outside diameter of the part/tool. It is a very economical dip coating process, allowing a much less expensive substrate material to be coated, and still outperform expensive metal. Having an equivalent thermal co-efficiency as the substrate also ensures no micro-cracking occurs to compromise the substrate material and can withstand high torque. Thus, InnoGUARDTM ENC is often a better replacement for hard chrome plating, polymer/epoxy coatings and many thermal spray applications due to superior adhesion, coating performance and cost reducing advantage.

    Harber Coatings Inc. is a high-tech research and development production company that has worked with ENC/ENP (Electroless Nickel Plating), transforming science findings into industrial applications. Harber Coatings Calgary facility offers large-scale production capability with over 20,000 square feet of production area and boasts some of the largest processing equipment in the world, including their 45-feet coating tanks. The installation of larger tanks and processing equipment in May 2015 enabled much larger parts and tools to be coated. The company immediately quadrupled its productivity and has been able to decrease customer pricing by an average of 20% to date. This has proven to be a huge benefit for companies dealing with very tight budgets in this economic slump.

    Prosperous Expansion Plans

    A component to Wang’s near future expansion plan is to use the Calgary facility as a staff training centre and open locations globally. He is actively seeking local partners to branch out the same operations globe wide, using the Calgary headquarters as a global training and technical support centre. Harber Coatings Inc. will surely build a great brand name worldwide. The company is also expanding into international consulting services with the creation of a Research Center of Materials & Coatings.

    Harber Coatings also strive to address environmental concerns such as unnecessary discarded parts/tools and a safer work environment. Their ENC does not contain toxic additives like previous generations of ENC, or as other coatings such as epoxy, polymers and chrome. In other words, the InnoGUARDTM system does not contaminate the environment or give off toxic fumes. Being eco-friendly by eliminating air toxicity and reducing chemical waste disposal, while maintaining low pricing, is crucial in this industry. Harber Coatings is much greener than other facilities and discharges 0.2 mg per litre of chemical waste, which is far below the City of Calgary’s 3.0 mg per litre regulation. This is an important factor when planning to use the Calgary facility as a training centre to open locations globally while minimizing the coating pollution impact worldwide.

    The InnoGUARDTM is a high phosphorous-nickel alloy, deposited on a metal substrate, excellent for much industrial and oil and gas applications. It is created by the intricate chemical reaction of nickel, phosphorus and other proprietary ingredients in a bath/dip process. The technique uses a nickel-phosphorous alloy deposited by a chemical reaction from hypophosphite on a catalytic substrate without the application of an electrical current. The coating thickness, from 0.0005 inches to 0.004 inches, is controlled by the length of time the metal substrate is left in a chemical bath solution. The autocatalytic chemical reaction deposits a controlled and uniform thickness even on complex-part geometry and eliminates the need to mask off areas and grind weld seams. Additionally, an impact or dent will not cause the coating to peel or flake. Post treatments allow the coating to achieve a Vickers Hardness up to 900 Vickers (greater than 68Rc) and a melting point of 880C, proven to be beneficial in marine/offshore applications.

    The main advantages of Wang’s ENC formulations-amorphous mixtures of nickel and phosphorous-stems from their stability and ability to be calibrated over time rather than created once and disposed of after the ingredients are depleted, as is typically the case. The formulations allowed Harber to move from 10-foot tanks to 45-foot tanks in May 2015, greatly increasing the variety of items it could run through the process, such as longer tubing and bigger pressure vessels.

    In the coating process, the low-temperature self-growing process is very attractive, for coating performance and economy (electroless nickel coating process is a rare self-growing process that happens in the low-temperature aqueous environment. This phenomenon was noticed in 1844 by A. Wurtz. Lab explorations trying to develop the mechanism into a coating process started in the 1950s. Industrialisation of this process started in the 1990s). The company’s proprietary formulas and its processing technologies are designed to allow it to continuously run its formula and reduce waste. They have a chemical engineer monitoring the formula twice a day, topping it up as necessary. Therefore, the solution never collapses, and coating quality is always optimal.

    It is a physically bonded coating and becomes one with the substrate, without altering it and eliminates internal stress and micro-cracking of the metal. It is bonded to that substrate until you wear it off; it will not peel, crack or flake. Heat and chemical post treatment of the coating increases ENC hardness, achieving even greater corrosion and abrasion resistance. ENC is much less porous than other metallic coatings such as hard chrome, and is applied without compressive stress, making it less prone to corrosion and reduces surface friction by two-thirds. Additionally, ENC maintains an identical surface profile before coating, ensuring the same smoothness is achieved as the substrate material used. ENC coating prevents corrosion on carbon steel, aluminium, brass, copper and high alloys such as Inconel.

    InnoGUARDTM  300, the basic formula, creates coatings up to 50 Rc. It has 11 to 15 percent phosphorus content, and the ductility is 1.3 percent elongation. The amorphous characteristics of the coating provide superb corrosion resistance since microbiological corrosion happens on iron surfaces. Therefore, the bacteria doesn’t eat the nickel.

    InnoGUARDTM 300H is a heat-treated, hardened formula that achieves a crystalline structure in the coating. The company recommends it for high wear-abrasion applications when corrosion is less severe.

    InnoGUARDTM 300M was developed for marine and offshore applications, as well as other harsh temperature environments with severe corrosion and abrasion factors. It achieves a Vickers hardness of 900 HV, or greater than 68 Rc.

    BACKGROUND: Ken Wang worked as an engineer in China for ten years after completing a bachelor of engineering from the Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics. He then obtained a master’s degree in chemical engineering from the University of Oklahoma with overseas work in Thailand, which led to his desire to pursue developing his proprietary formula of ENP, targeted for the petrochemical and oil and gas industries. Wang also has experience working as a chemical engineer in Calgary on projects such as pressure vessels. He founded Harber in 2002 to improve the stability of ENC products with unique formulas and custom processing technologies.

    Even with what he sees as a significant technology head-start on the competition, Wang is not standing still. With research and development facilities funded by the National Research Council Canada, Harber is developing a metallic, ceramic liner, a supersonic arc metal spray and laser-assisted nano fusion products.

    Typical Oil and Gas applications

    Typical Oil and Gas applications include downhole tools, multi-stage frac tools, packers, pup joints, completion tools, wireline tools, slotted pipes, BOP’s, spools, ANSI & API valves, pumps, tubing, rods, pistons, cylinders, hangars, flanges, pump plungers and liners, pump housings, impellers/shafts, pressure vessels, strainers, pipes and fittings, fracing valve elements, sand screens, reciprocating pump barrels, rotors, gear boxes, and bearings.

    19 tangible benefits that support the integration of Ken Wang’s coating innovation into your industrial infrastructure:

    1. A cost-effective way to extend the working life of tools and parts by 20X or greater.

    2. Superior bonding ensures it does not peel or flake when mechanically impacted. It does not require a secondary polymer dip to prevent peeling or flaking like other ENC coatings.

    3. Provides supreme resistance to highly corrosive environments such as steam, H2S, CO2, high calories, oxygen, and brine water.

    4. Can withstand temperatures up to 880 degrees Celsius.

    5. Reduces surface friction by 2/3 and is self-lubricating.

    6. Can withstand high torquing and compressive stress.

    7. Consistent coating uniformity and thickness regardless of the part/tool geometry and cost efficient way to salvage mis-machined part and tools.

    8. Available in varying thicknesses from 0.0005 inches to 0.004 inches, depending on application needs and specifications.

    9. Coats the interior and exterior of the part or tool for the same cost.

    10.Comparable in cost to epoxy or polymer coatings, with much better performance.

    11. Effectively coats sharp edges, deep recesses, seams, threads and blind holes without impacting function.

    12. Due to being a metallic coating, it has the same thermal coefficient as the substrate and when the metal contracts or expands, no micro-cracking occurs as it does with epoxy or polymers.

    13. Clean metals, such as new carbon steel, do not need to be sand-blasted before coating, therefore reducing costs and ensuring the substrate isn’t damaged.

    14. Provides more durability for surface-on-surface friction abrasion than hard chrome, especially in lubricated conditions.

    15. ”Electroless” means that no electrodes need to be attached to the coating process. Therefore no areas are excluded in coating.

    16. If the coating is damaged by an excessive wrenching, corrosion remains localized to the damaged spot; corrosion will not extend between the coating and the substrate.

    17. Maintains an identical surface profile before coating, ensuring the same smoothness is achieved as the substrate material used.

    18. Metals that can be coated include carbon steel, stainless steel, aluminium, brass, copper, zinc and alloys.

    19. No machining required after coating and no grinding of weld seams before coating saves time and cost.

    See the InnoGUARD specification sheet here.

    The Challenges Harber Coatings has overcome:

    1. Chemical process stability – electroless nickel coating process is a chemical reaction process. The process needs to be properly active so that the best coating quality and the best coating rate will be achieved. Overactive process will generate bad quality coating, and lead to the collapse of the chemical bath which will result in unqualified coating and the waste of the whole chemical bath.
    2. Continuous chemical process stability and quality consistency – In a real production environment, large quantity, various substrate materials & mechanical parts processed in the bath. Chemicals are continuously fed to the plating tank to maintain the effective chemical level. Part of the chemicals is plated out to form the nickel alloy coating on the parts, part of the added chemicals remain in the tank in the form of ions which cannot be selectively removed. We have successfully overcome this challenge and have extended the working life of each single bath well beyond the average industrial level, reducing waster by over 80%.
    3. Based on continuous industrial production, we always have two warranties on our coating products – one year quality warranty, and the lifetime no flaking or peeling warranty – no matter under severe mechanical impact or chemical attack.
    4. We have eliminated coating peeling need due to process defects. Chemical peeling is very polluting and highly risky work.
    5. We have eliminated the chemical cleaning work to clean coating tanks/equipment. Current industrial criteria request such chemical cleaning routinely done by using nitric acid, which is a polluting and dangerous chemical material.
    6. All the chemicals we use in our process are in low emission. Our shop air quality is well above OSHA criteria, better than the average of machine shops.
    7. Based on the above achievements, we were capable of expanding our production scale.
    8. Our current tank size is 45 ft. Long, the largest in North America. Technically we can run a bigger coating system of any reasonable size, based on long term and trouble free operations, and remain environmentally friendly.
    9. The chemical waste to dispose of our process is far below the industry practice, reduced beyond 80% due to our proprietary processing technology.

    How is Harber Coatings truly different?

    1. Our coating meets all the current industrial standards, including ASTM, API, NACE, etc.
    2. As a matter of fact, all the other electroless nickel coating/plating products meeting all the industrial standards DO NOT have the same corrosion/abrasion resistant performance as our formulas and cannot match our revolutionary 2-step coating durability for pipe spools and pressure vessels.
    3. We simply operate a clean process in low emission so that shop operators don’t inhale bad quality air, (almost 100% free of any emissions). Instead, others use high volume air exhaust system help protect people in their shops but still extremely toxic.
    4. We focus on delivering reliable high-performance electroless nickel coating/plating products. Assets with our coating protection have many times better longevity (20times or better), and the eventual failure can be very well predicted as our coating will not flake/peel off.
    5. The values we provide to our clients are – with the cost of coating they can expect many times better longevity on their assets and properties. The big savings include lower production cost and re-fabrication cost, plus decreased the cost to dispose of the worn assets. There is less cost/risk of facility pipeline leakage, much less spare parts replacement, etc.
    6. The values we provide to the society – the process is much cleaner. The process has much less waste to dispose of. Less fabrication/consumption needs meaning less pollution associated with shipping and fabrication activities. The values are realized by using relatively inexpensive and easy made coating, instead of expensive solid alloy materials.     

    What is the global vision for Harber Coatings Inc.?

    Harber Coatings Inc. is assessing the opportunities of setting up huge coating facilities in the Middle East and Russia, where there is a huge demand for functional coatings while the users are very selective. Environmental protection is also a big concern over there. 

    What makes a successful high-performance coating?

    With both mechanical engineering and chemical engineering background, Ken Wang had been working in technical and management in aviation industries and oil/gas/petrochemical industries for many years before he set up his own business. In 2001 he decided to research and develop his electroless nickel coating/plating technology. He has started from the basic academic formulas and successfully developed it into a high-performance coating commercial process, on a large production scale. Electroless nickel coating/plating process started industrialization in the mid-1990s. Ken Wang’s angle to look at electroless nickel coating/plating process vision:

    1. This was the only one process (and it still is today) which generates an alloy of a metal element (nickel) and a non-metal element (phosphorus) at a molecular level, based on a chemical reaction in aqueous environment – meaning the coating performance could be higher than nickel alloys, the coating cost could be low, coating could be done inside complicated internal configurations, and production scale could be large/huge.   
    2. As this is a low-temperature process, coating bonding to substrate material is a physical bond. Coating density and strong adhesion to the substrate material would be a big challenge.
    3. Given a high-performance coating is achieved through formulas study, commercialization of the process needs to overcome long-term operational stability with quality consistency.
    4. Large/huge production scale could be realized based on data/experiences accumulated from the previously commercialised production.
    5. Shop operation could be very mechanized and automated. 
    6. The process could be developed to the extent that an average operator without chemical background would run the process smoothly.
    7. The process could be developed much greener and cleaner, to greatly reduce the generation of waste and pollution.
    8. A proprietary formula could be developed for extreme corrosion and temperature applications.

    Client Applications

    “We have been very fortunate to find Harber Coatings Inc’s InnoGUARD coating as an excellent selling feature for new and replacement parts we manufacture. In the past, phosphate had been used on these parts and within 1-year there were signs of corrosion and pitting. With the InnoGUARD coating they look new like the day they were bought. This is an awesome coating that saves time, money and is virtually inexpensive to do. Ken Wang and the rest of the people at Harber Coatings understand the oil field requirements and will get the job done to meet your required deadline. Great product and service every time!”
    Dean Hartley, President
    Specialty Pressure Services Inc.
    http://www.specialtypressureservices.com
    Red Deer, Alberta, Canada

    About Harber Coatings Inc.

    Harber Coatings Inc. is a high-tech research and development production company in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Founded in 2002, the company has successfully developed its intellectual properties and processing technologies, including InnoGUARDTM Flakeless Electroless Nickel Coating.  With research and development facilities funded by the National Research Council of Canada, Harber Coatings Inc. continues to develop innovative technologies such as Metallic Ceramic Liner, Ultrasonic Electro-thermal Spray and Laser-Assisted Nano Fusion products.  The company’s quality assurance system is ISO:9001:2008 certified.

     

    Tina Olivero

    Tina Olivero

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