When the young managing directors of Hofmann & Vratny, one of the world's biggest manufacturers of high-quality carbide end milling tools, first trialed offering their products for processing hardened steels in a choice of black or blue, customers relished the option - despite the attractive colors not affecting performance in any way. The company spotted the chance to fly the flag for its technological prowess this way. Marius Heinemann-Grüder and Andreas Vratny, the duo in question, recognized that the conservative mechanical engineering sector not only has to embrace trends such as digitization, but also needs to react better to changes in market requirements by appealing more to end users' subjective experience.
The decision of its coating partner Oerlikon Balzers to unveil its innovative BALIQ UNIQUE - a broad spectrum of vibrant colors for BALIQ's high-quality, anti-wear coatings that can be used on any shape and reproduced industrially - at the latest EMO Hannover suited the new concept of Hofmann & Vratny to the ground. Tool manufacturers can use BALIQ UNIQUE to color-code their tool types, groups or applications to make their ranges instantly recognizable. But the essence lies in the fact that this coloring - which can currently be applied to drills, milling tools, reamers, screw taps and shapers, and microtools - does not affect the performance of BALIQ coatings.
"This color concept is by no means conceived as a gimmick," explains Heinemann-Grüder. "The intention is for the appearance of our products to reflect their high quality. The market confirms our belief, in that if two products are equally good, customers will opt for the one that also looks the part." As a matter of fact, the S3p manufacturing technology that the innovative BALIQ UNIQUE colored coating is based on is supposed to even enhance the tools' performance compared to the standard predecessor, thanks to the smooth, impeccable finish it adds. As Detlev Bross, Global Account Manager at Oerlikon Balzers, points out: "This process and the outstanding coating surfaces that it produces have now enabled us to refine our existing approaches to develop a high-quality, industrial-grade product." This patent-pending process unlocks the door to a theoretically infinite spectrum of colors. Plans are now afoot to roll out BALIQ UNIQUE designs worldwide.