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Ford Team Given 2009 National Inventor of the Year Award for Plasma Transferred Wire Arc Engine Coating Technology

Application of PTWA Coating to Ford ZETEC 1.4 Liter VCT Engine. Click to enlarge.

The Intellectual Property Owners Education Foundation is awarding the inventors of the Ford-patented Plasma Transferred Wire Arc (PTWA) technology used to apply coatings on engine cylinder bores the 2009 National Inventor of the Year Award. Ford presented a paper on PTWA at the SAE 2008 World Congress. (Earlier post.)

Ford’s PTWA thermal spray coating process for aluminum engine blocks replaces heavy cast iron liners, thereby improving fuel efficiency by reducing engine weight and internal piston friction losses. Ford has 95 issued and pending patents related to the new PTWA coating technology and will introduce it on its North American powertrain lineup within the next year.

A PTWA-applied cylinder coating. Click to enlarge.

While an aluminum engine block offers a substantial weight savings to a vehicle, most aluminum engines require heavy cast iron liners because of aluminum’s low wear resistance, somewhat offsetting the block’s initial leaner weight.

The PTWA process, developed by Ford in collaboration with Flame-Spray Industries, replaces these heavy liners with a low-friction, wear-resistant coating that makes the engine lighter and more efficient. The plasma-sprayed coating offers several advantages, including:

  • Engine weight reductions—the coating can reduce the weight of a V-6 engine, for instance, by approximately six pounds.
  • Reduced friction between the piston rings and cylinder bore, which has been shown to deliver measurable friction reduction.
  • Improved oil and fuel economy.
  • Improved engine performance due to better heat management.

In addition, the PTWA coating process has been used to recycle damaged and worn aluminum and cast iron engine blocks by applying the wear-resistant coating to the cylinder bore surface. Remanufacturing engines using the PTWA process requires 50% to 80% less energy to produce compared with a new manufactured engine block.

Thermal spray coatings have been used for years in the aerospace industry for increasing the durability and performance of aircraft turbine engines. Ford researchers began collaborating with Flame-Spray Industries and other suppliers in the 1990s to transfer this efficient, lightweight aerospace technology to a low-cost, high-volume application suitable for the auto industry. One of the challenges was to create a robust coating applicator since commonly-used thermal spray devices were not capable of coating cylinder bores of automotive engine blocks.

The innovative PTWA spray torch technology was a significant enabler of making this high-volume coating process more reliable for automotive applications, while offering the economies of scale for low-cost coating of engine cylinder bores.


Big Al

This is the type of thing that Detroit is so good at. Take an advanced specialized process and turning it into a production line process.


A big advantage of eliminating iron cylinder liners is the reduced cylinder spacing. As they say "if it's bigger, it's heavier - unless it's made out of air".

With their labor costs, Detroit can only survive if they take an advanced science and turn it into a low cost production line process.


Just a note that the link to Flame-Spray Industries is incorrect. It should be This is the company that developed the technology in conjunction with Ford.

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