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University of Wisconsin Madison College of Engineering
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Plasma research heats up business

Men around plasma spray

Lawn mower blade manufacturer Dick Wilkey's research partnership with the college lead to the start of a second business: Thermal Spray Technologies. Wilkey, a UW-Madison graduate, runs Fisher-Barton, Inc., in Watertown, Wisconsin. As a result of supporting Bill Lenling's graduate student research, under the direction of Materials Science and Engineering Professor Frank J. Worzala, Fisher-Barton moved into plasma spraying (large image). Thermal Spray then hired recent MS&E graduate Raymond Smith. The company has expanded from three employees in 1992 to its current staff of 12. Thermal spray is also working with the college through the Wisconsin Center for Industrial Competitiveness-Southwest (WisCIC/SW). The program will assess the company's current business practices and make recommendations for training to continuously improve modern manufacturing methods. The plasma spraying process injects powders of almost any material into the high-temperature, high-speed flame of a plasma gun. Typical applications include coatings for wear resistance, corrosion resistance, thermal barriers and dielectric coatings.