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Photos Jonathan Castner

Alcadyne

by Eric Peterson on January 15, 2020, 01:56 pm MST

www.alcadyne.com

Longmont, Colorado

Founded: 2017

Privately owned

Employees: 10

Industry: Contract Manufacturing

Products Thin-film coating and deposition services

CEO John Marr is driving the startup into aerospace, injection molding, and semiconductor industries with cutting-edge coatings.

"We do thin-film vacuum coatings," says Marr. "We specialize in providing vacuum coatings for anything that sees harsh environments, so friction, harsh chemicals, any sort of wear and tear. We coat for a wide variety of industries."

Alcadyne was spun off from PcoMed, which focuses solely on coatings for medical implants, and another coating provider, Surfatek. Assuming Surfatek's niche in industrial coatings, Alcadyne's initial target material was clear hard coatings for glass, but the company quickly found another niche in semiconductor manufacturing.

Marr came to Alcadyne by way of a career split between the energy sector and banking and finance. "The first year was very slow," says Marr, citing a "longer-term, slow business development process" in the semiconductor industry. "In the last six to eight months, business has started to take off nicely. We've got a lot more business coming in. People are starting to hear about us."

He says jobs are split roughly evenly between injection molding; semiconductor; and medical, aerospace, and "oddball projects." 

Alcadyne offers physical vapor deposition (PVD); cathodic arc coatings offer "a very hard surface on industrial parts" with a number of metals; and sputtering coatings, often with sapphire, provide chemical resistance largely for quartz tools used in semiconductor production. "Alcadyne is one of very few, if not the only one, that is doing it," says Marr.

"[Semiconductor manufacturers] needed a coating like this to protect what they call consumables in their semiconductor chambers," he adds. "They etch these wafers with fluorine plasmas, which is really harsh on anything that's in there. . . . They were going through a lot of quartz glass, and it's very expensive. It's machined quartz."

The company also offers chemical vapor deposition, including atomic layer deposition (ALD). "That puts down a coating atom layer by atom layer," says Marr. "That technique is used for odd geometries primarily, when you need to get down long tubes or  around corners, or the shape of the part is such that you can't do it with physical vapor deposition."

It's a much slower (and more expensive) process compared with PVD -- meaning days or weeks instead of hours.

"We're moving pretty significantly into the additive manufacturing space, which I'm pretty excited about," says Marr. That largely involves coatings on 3D-printed plastic parts to make them conductive or resistant to chemicals or, potentially, heat and flame. "We're changing the surface characteristics of these 3D-printed parts," says Marr. "The substrate may be relatively soft, but they need a hard coating. We've been putting stainless steel and titanium nitride on 3D-printer parts."

The company coats 3D-printed metal parts as well. "They need a consistent layer on top of it for conductivity or if they're going to etch the surface." 

Alcadyne utilizes a thermal sprayer to coat parts in liquid metals and can also coat parts in ceramics. 

The injection-molding market now involves coatings for cooling channels on 3D-printed injection molds to make them more resistant to corrosion; Alcadyne took over Surfatek's existing accounts in this area.

"Everyone's printing injection molds now in metal. The highlight of that is that they're able to print conformal cooling channels. They're able to run cooling channels in all these odd configurations to effectively cool the mold." 

The problem, over time, is corrosion, and leaky channels. Alcadyne has developed a ceramic coating for the channels to protect the channels.

Challenges: "Like everybody, finding good people," says Marr, citing an expectation to hire five new employees in 2020.

"The other challenge is getting our name out there," he adds, noting that many local injection molding shops send parts across the country for coatings. "It's expensive for them," says Marr. They're delighted to hear that there's somebody locally who can do it."

Opportunities: "I'm really excited about the additive side," says Marr. "It's everywhere. It's in every industry now and it's going to continue growing. Particularly on the aerospace side, you see a lot of additive manufacturing, and I'm excited about marrying coatings with these additive parts that are being produced."

He sees aerospace and semiconductor business to grow as well as injection-molding accounts. "We've heard from a lot of injection molders that coating the inside of these conformal cooling channels is kind of a big deal," says Marr. "I'm hoping that turns into quite a growth area for us as well."

Reshoring manufacturers that are rebuilding supply chains domestically represent another opportunity, he adds. "They've been looking around for not only injection molds but coatings for the products they're producing."

Needs: "We'll probably need some growth capital," says Marr. "It's on the radar for 2020." The target is $1 million to $5 million.

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