CREST Pilot Line: A resource for industry

Graph Engineering is an Irish-owned, family-run business with over 50 years’ experience specialising in the treatment of aluminium. Graph offers a high-capacity and rapid-turnaround anodising service. They specialise in sulphuric acid anodising, hard anodising, PTFE impregnation, chromate conversion,  spray coatings and dry film lubricants.

Anodising is a technique for forming protective oxide (anodic) layers on metal alloys such as aluminium and titanium. However. the bulk of titanium parts for the medical device industry are currently being anodised overseas. The CREST team has been working on anodic surfaces for more than 10 years, developing aesthetic coatings that enable the finish to withstand exposure to extreme pH conditions. Through an Enterprise Ireland Commercialisation Fund project (ADAP), a pilot scale production line was built to investigate the new technology to support ongoing patent activity and to develop new projects with Irish companies.

Some of these coatings have been commercialised with Irish companies and are now in full scale production (e.g. Volvo XC60). Over the last 5 years the team has also developed new anodising techniques that can be introduced onto existing production lines. The pilot line built by CREST enabled Graph Engineering to work on trial parts for new customers without impinging upon the daily workload on their full production line.

With the analytical expertise in CREST, these new products can be then characterised by electron microscopy and accelerated corrosion testing according to recognised international standards. Based on this work in CREST, Graph has recently started providing a competitive servide in Ireland for Titanium anodising. This generated knowledge enable the team to join a consortium wioth SEAM (WIT), Shivo Medical and Stryker Orthopaedics working next generation 3-D printed medical devices. The consortium is funded under the recently funded Disruptive Technology Innovation Fund., annouced in December 2018.

 “Through work on the anodising line at CREST DIT we have been able to significantly improve efficiencies on our commercial process line.  These improvements have led directly to an increase in almost 55% on export sales to automotive industry clients and increase of 12% in employee numbers in R&D.” Dr Sive Geoghegan, CEO, Graph Engineering

Exigence Technologies

CREST is delighted to start working with Exigence Technologies on their H2020 project SymbiCoat.

In this project Exigence’s stimulus responsive monomers will be incorporated into robust industrial coatings for use in food production facilities, creating ‘smart’ materials as a result.
These materials have the potential to improve food safety, quality, shelf life and plant productivity.
While not antimicrobial, these coatings create rechargeable surfaces that extend the efficacy of active chlorine released from registered biocides, such as sodium hypochlorite.
At the same time, the surfaces improve cleanability to discourage the anchorage of biofilms.
Together, it is anticipated that this technology may enable sodium hypochlorite to significantly improve control of common microbial challenges (such as Listeria and E.coli) among others in food processing environments.

Zach Wolff, CEO of Exigence Technologies, says that this technology has the opportunity to be a game changer in the in the food industry by enlisting passive surfaces in the fight to maintain plant hygiene, improving productivity and product quality while reducing the overall need for biocides.


Eco-burner Products

Eco-burner has developed unique LPG-powered culinary stove technology over a number of years. Currently the combustion technology used in the product is in its third generation and is embodied as a flameless catalytic radiant burner. The stove is designed as a direct replacement for culinary gels and wicks used for food warming applications around the world. The benefit to end users is improved safety, waste reduction, and in many cases cost reduction.

Eco-burner contacted CREST after observing early mortality catalytic burner failures on stoves deployed in the field. Eco-burner was awarded a first Innovation Voucher with the support of CREST to help solve the issue. The main goal of the project was to improve the quality of the high temperature LPG burners by studying the life-limiting metallurgical failure mechanisms.

CREST experts combined field-emission scanning electron microscopy (FESEM) with energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (EDX) analysis to visualise prepared cross-sections of Eco-burner products. After only few weeks’ first results and solutions were submitted to the company. In agreement with Eco-burner, further study was carried out to better understand the mechanisms of failure observed.

The two steps study gave the company greater insight into the underlying micromechanisms of burner failure and helped uncover an unauthorised material change by a supplier which was found to influence burner durability.

Tony Owens, Chief Technology Officer at Eco-burner mentioned that the benefit of the assignment to Eco-burner included a better understanding of the various micromechanisms of oxidative failure in surface combustion applications allowing a better design of the burners.

He also mentioned that he valued the ability to engage directly with CREST team members as engineering peers, to pool knowledge in a confidential environment, and to work transparently and collaboratively.

C & F Automotive

Formerly known as Iralco, C&F Automotive is now part of the C&F group and employs 370 staff at the Collinstown site in Co. Westmeath. The company exports aluminium trim to Automotive Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM) such as Volkswagen, Volvo, Daimler, Porsche and Bentley.

The CREST Gateway has a long collaborative relationship with C&F Automotive. From an Enterprise Ireland Innovation Partnership project CREST and C&F Automotive developed a sol-gel coating technology called Dualion that was applied to the company’s aluminium trim to pass the Volkswagen TL182 performance standard. The Dualion technology was licensed to C&F Automotive and it was subsequently successfully tested by Volvo and Daimler. Trial batches were originally synthesised in Finland by Millidyne, a recognised Sol-Gel manufacturer.

In November 2012 the TL182 standard was revised with UV requirements and the preferred version of Dualion did not meet their full specification. CREST and C&F staff reformulated the Dualion technology within the scope of the existing patent to meet the needs of C&F clients. 2015 saw several variations synthesised with a final preferred technology developed with sufficient scratch and UV resistance. This version was approved by Volvo for Qualification Assessment. To achieve qualification, C&F have to prepare full size parts (length of 1.2-1.4 m) which required new equipment and large volumes. Both CREST and C&F Automotive met with TE labs in Tullow, Co. Carlow and arranged for batch trials to be blended. By September 2015 TE Labs had undertaken blending of 1,000L of the new Dualion Sol-Gel generation for testing by Volvo.

Final trials for C&F with Volvo have been held for securing contracts on their 2017 models. Daimler has also accepted the technology and will be incorporating the Dualion product during 2016.

‘This technology will keep 50 jobs in Ireland and will generate sales of €10 -€20M p.a. at full production” Mike Young, Business Development Manager C&F.

Ha’Penny Bridge

Like the famous Ha’penny Bridge, DIT spans both sides of Dublin City but there is another connection between the two institutions. In 2001, the famous bridge was in need of significant restoration and was closed to the public while this was carried out. While a team from Harland & Wolff Shipbuilders in Belfast was commissioned to construct new bridge decks, a team of researchers from CREST were consulted on the coating operations involved.

The CREST team members involved in the restoration of the bridge were Jim Murphy, Helen McAuliffe, Paul Quinn and John Colreavy. They provided consultation and supervision of all painting operations. The polyurethane paint system was supplied by General Paints of Celbridge, an indigenous Irish paint manufacturer. A laboratory evaluation programme confirmed the high performance capability of the system and identified incompatibilities between some of the additional materials being specified for which suitable alternatives were found. Supervision duties took team members into Harland & Wolff Shipbuilders in the heart of Belfast where the new bridge decks were constructed and painted. They also spent time at the site works of Gabriel Hughes Paint Contractors in Co Tyrone making sure the refurbishment of the railings went according to plan. They spent many late nights supervising the refurbishment of the bridge trusses which remained on-site back in Dublin. The project was considered an overwhelming success and was awarded a European Restoration Bronze Medal (Nostrada) in September 2003.

The Ha’penny Bridge celebrated its 200th anniversary and DIT CREST is proud to have played a significant part in protecting this beloved Dublin institution for the next 100 years.

Smarter Surfaces

Smarter Surfaces is a Dublin-based world leader in providing innovative surface solutions with a variety of functionalities. Once Smarter Surfaces’ products are applied to any smooth surface, they transform it into a high performance magnetic, dry erase and / or projection surface.

Smarter Surfaces has gained a reputation for it’s ability to design and create truly innovative commercial wallcoverings, paints and plasters that have one purpose- to add functionality to surfaces. Their customers  are mainly in business and education, and use functional surfaces to improve the way they work and learn.

CREST undertook a materials development investigation on Smarter Surface’s award-winning whiteboard paint to enhance its functionality.

This project was funded as a feasibility study under the Innovation Partnership Programme and the initial results achieved were so encouraging the company committed to a full Innovation Partnership with CREST. This was completed in 2014.

Since January 2018, the R&D activities of Smarter Surfaces will now be based in CREST, allowing the company to avail of our equipment and expertise.

Smarter Surfaces Founder Ronan Clarke commented that:

“Research and the ability to commercialise on the results of our research, has propelled our business into the global market. Our partnership with CREST has played a huge role in our ability to compete with established industry leaders through our innovation. We are delighted to now have a base for our own team within CREST which means our partnership will be even stronger.”

Metal Improvement Company (MIC)

The Metal Improvement Company (MIC), a subsidiary of the Curtiss-Wright Corporation opened a new Parylene coatings facility in Galway in 2011. MIC has over twenty years’ experience in parylene coatings and the Galway site provides a coating service for the MedicalDevice, Electronics and Aerospace markets. As part of the PDI Innovation Partnership funded by Enterprise Ireland, MIC worked with CREST to optimise the adhesion of parylene onto Aluminium components to use as heating elements for blood packs. The aluminium components were supplied by a Dutch medical device company (Helvoet BV), which requires a device that allows blood to be taken from storage (+4°C) and rapidly heated to body temperature, thus ensuring best practise for patient care. Previous work by MIC found that the traditional cleaning degreasing steps were not sufficient to prepare the surface for optimised parylene adhesion.

The Gateway worked with the CREST Research group to investigate commercially available cleaning chemistries and adhesion promoters to maximise parylene adhesion. Through a controlled series of iterative steps a cleaning/adhesion promoter system was delivered which achieved adhesion and chemical resistance standards. The surface treatment enabled MIC to successfully coat the heating elements with full conformal coatings at a thickness of less than 4 microns. As a result of this work new orders have been generated for the company with a new production line being installed, CREST are assisting the company in this process.


ESB International (ESBI) is a leading global engineering consultancy specialising in the utility sector. ESBI invests in, develops, designs, operates and maintains power stations both nationally and internationally, and also trades electricity in competitive European energy markets. Employing over 1,100 professional staff between its offices in Ireland and abroad, ESBI has completed projects in over 120 countries. Since 2005 ESBI have been regular clients of CREST with particular needs in the area of corrosion prevention. Following remediation works the management team in ESBI identified technical needs in the area of coatings and inspections. Following discussions with the CREST Gateway team in December 2015 a training plan was outlined and schedule put in place.

In August 2016 eleven senior engineers started a bespoke training course in Protective Coatings. Over the course of four Mondays the staff were introduced to coating technology and surface treatments during the morning and practical sessions in the afternoon. Using current ESBI coating systems, the staff were trained to evaluate and assess their suitability on pristine, contaminated and badly corroded surfaces. The coating challenges faced during the course were designed to mimic those experienced in the field. A company visit to Galco Steel was also included. Galco treat products from Irish companies, such as Meath Metals, that are eventually used by ESBI. The engineering team were exposed to the practical aspects of a range of surface treatments and coating technologies.

Equipped with new tools, the team are now confident that they can take necessary preventative steps in their specifications, in identifying and treating localised corrosion failures before they require substantial remediation.

“This training has added another level of expertise for the ESBI senior engineers from Asset Management Services and HV Design; they can quickly identify suitable coatings, failures and potential treatments during the course of their work, both during the asset lifetime on site and feeding back to the design and specification stage.”

Stewart Flood, ESBI Engineering, Electrical Engineer, Stations Maintenance, Asset Management Services