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STORYTELLING: The importance of surface treatment

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What if?

What if surface treatment did not exist?

We’d have to get used again to rusty cars that fall apart after five years, unless the manufacturers would revert to steel plates twice as thick, like the American cars of the 1950’s. Many of these cars can still be admired in Cuba, … but you’d have to imagine them without the frivolous colours, since painting also belongs to the realm of surface treatment. Not only cars; all the appliances we use today would be in the colour of the basic material they are made of, i.e. mostly grey, white or black. Pretty dull isn’t it? Rust patches on the metal surface would in fact be the only decorative element to distinguish one from the other.

Letting our mind wander over a world without surface treatment we might also see ourselves ending up in a hospital with a broken leg (because we noticed the grey car too late?) and walk out five days later with an exotic disease picked up from a colony of bacteria living on the hospital walls and appliances by lack of an efficient anti-bacterial coating.

But not to worry, we could still use our mobile phone and call a doctor. He might suggest you should take a flight to some sunny resort to recover from illness. But wait! Would GSM’s exist in a world without surface treatment? For one thing, they would be a lot bigger since Moore’s law would never have become a reality without the existence of sophisticated surface technology in chip manufacturing.

Could you imagine stress-resistant jet turbine blades manufactured without surface treatment? And what if shot peening would not exist to increase fatigue strength and relieve tensile stresses of the flap supports in modern aircrafts? You certainly wouldn’t think of boarding such a plane.

To make a long story short, surface finishing is everywhere. Without surface finishing, many of your metal conveniences would no longer exist. Virtually every metal object has been finished to improve its appearance or shelf life.

Imagine a world with no metal objects! How would your life change if there were no cars, airplanes, silverware, TVs, cell phones, computers or music players?

Published by VOM vzw
Authors Frank Schelfaut & Veerle Fincken