Epner Tackles Complex Gold-Plating Projects
By Anthony L. Velocci, Jr.
Source: Aviation Week & Space Technology
September 03, 2012
Anthony L. Velocci, Jr.
Epner Technology Inc. President and Founder David Epner takes enormous pride in the fact that his engineering team welcomes complex projects for which his customers cannot find another supplier to tackle successfully, if at all. Such challenges, practically routine, are what sustain Epner's culture of innovation—finding solutions to problems that seem to elude others.
“Conventional wisdom holds that the kind of work we do is more black magic than science, but I believe everything we do is science,” Epner says. “If there is any art—or black magic—involved, it's how you apply the science, especially when it appears you have run into a brick wall.”
What Epner does is laser gold- and black-plating—using a proprietary electrochemical process—for customers serving the aerospace and defense, automotive, computer, medical and semiconductor industries. Most of its work is for the government and defense contractors.
Epner's signature work has included such jobs as gold-plating super-sensitive radioactivity detectors and critical TOW and Maverick missile-guidance components. Two projects underway involve coating components that will provide one of the U.S.'s most lethal unmanned aerial platforms with night-vision capability, and gold-plating the heart of the electrostatic analyzer—which filters out electron particles—with laser black on NASA's Magnetospheric Multiscale Mission under the Solar Terrestrial Probes program.
Gold is one of the most reflective materials known to science, especially in the infrared spectrum. It is used to coat optical mirrors in spacecraft, satellites, lasers and missile countermeasure systems, among other highly sensitive instruments and components. The challenge with laser gold-plating is how to increase both its reflectivity and durability. The function of black laser-coating is to absorb light. There the challenge is increasing the amount of light absorption across a wider range of the IR spectrum—the main focus of much of the company's current R&D.
Innovation at Epner Technology is driven mainly by existing or prospective customers asking whether a particular coating job is technically possible. One of Epner's most memorable such inquiries came from a semiconductor manufacturer whose requirement involved coating a chemical-reaction vessel. Plating such a large part had never been attempted. The job called for laser-plating to a minimum of 1.5 microns (60 millionths of an inch) of gold, with at least 98% reflectivity.