The following lecture was held by Peter Heinrich at the 7th HVOF Colloquium 2006 in Erding. It gives an overview about history, today's status and future of the GTS.


GTS – a Success Story

Peter Heinrich

1. Introduction
2. The early beginnings of GTS
3. GTS certification
4. Strategy and objectives
5. GTS today
6. GTS activities
7. GTS – its future and its trends
8. Summary
9. References


1. Introduction


Imperative for the long-term success of a technical field or technology are three elementary and extremely important pillars:

• a solid basis,
• clearly defined objectives, and
• independence.

In this day and age, it makes sense to found a community with common interests and goals which is supported by these three pillars. For thermal spraying, this is the Association of Thermal Sprayers (GTS e.V.).

The solid basis of GTS is formed by its active and motivated members with their highly qualified personnel, and their high-grade spray equipment and spray facilities which meet the pertinent legal requirements.

The clearly defined objectives of GTS are to ensure and inspect thermal spray quality, to make this quality visible to the outside world by means of GTS certification and to promote and make known the thermal spray technology, in particular by way of:

• joint advertising campaigns
• joint public relations activities to promulgate thermal spraying
• support with events in specialist fields such as colloquia, trade fairs, seminars, training courses, etc.

Independence was achieved by founding GTS e.V., the Association of Thermal Sprayers, on 22 October 1992 after its 13 founding members had done the necessary groundwork.

GTS is an association which is accessible to all users of thermal spray coatings and to all thermal sprayers.

Figure 1: The GTS logo is registered at the
German Patent Office under the number 2062298.


2. The early beginnings of GTS


The history of the Association of Thermals Sprayers can be told in a nutshell, although the founding members and SLV Munich, which gave us its undivided support from the very outset, invested a great deal of time and effort in its establishment. Within a very short time, the GTS Statutes, GTS Guidelines and GTS implementation papers were compiled.

From 1992 onward, the founding members met on many occasions to discuss the objectives of the new association and to put these down in writing. Here, it was very important to ensure that all the GTS rules and guidelines created were applicable to the entire spectrum of future GTS members, these being small businesses, medium-sized companies and enterprises trading internationally. Moreover, the above rules had to be of interest to each individual member. This was the only way in which to impart our ideas to companies and thus give GTS a broad base in the thermal spray sector. In the meantime, more than 20 papers have been compiled, starting with the GTS Statutes, GTS Quality Management Guidelines, through to the procedure guidelines for “GTS certification”.

When looking back on these objectives, their success today is clearly evidenced by GTS membership, currently standing at 142 members. The fact that membership numbers are still increasing, confirms that the targets and guidelines set by GTS are beneficial and also lucrative to member companies.

The spectrum of GTS membership comprises full members, sponsoring members and honorary members.

Full members are companies which apply thermal spray technology and processes. In accordance with the Statutes, these members have committed themselves to quality auditing and certification of their equipment engineering with respect to reproducible coatings, and the qualification of their personnel as sprayers and thermal spray specialists pursuant to the GTS guidelines. At present, GTS has 74 full members who have nearly all been certified according to GTS criteria; a few have even undergone additional GTS product or coating certification.

By contrast, sponsoring members do not have their own coating business and are therefore not obliged to undergo certification. As the title expresses, they are interested in sponsoring and promoting the thermal spray technology for a variety of reasons. GTS sponsoring members include manufacturers of spray equipment and spray materials, as well as universities, research institutes or engineering companies. Their membership guarantees that researchers and suppliers remain in constant contact with the practitioners working in the coating job shops of full members, and thus exchange their experiences on an ongoing basis.

Figure 2: The membership structure of GTS

Of the association’s full members, 53 % of the companies have less than 10 staff members employed in the field of thermal spraying. This clearly shows that GTS provides a so-called home port for the interests of SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) involved in thermal spraying.

3. GTS certification


The GTS certificate is the visible sign of quality for a coating business that has successfully undergone certification according to the stringent regulations of GTS. The basis and prerequisite for GTS certification is the GTS company inspection.

A company certified by GTS possesses a QM system within the context of EN ISO 9001:2000. In addition, the staff (specialists and workers) have passed theoretical and practical examinations. The company has also passed the process inspections relevant to the spray processes it applies.

The GTS certificate is proof of the company’s high quality standard and thus offers a competitive advantage that can be effectively utilized on the thermal spray market.

Figure 3: Extent of the GTS company inspection


4. Strategy and objectives


GTS is now a well-established community comprising industrial enterprises, job shops, commercial firms and research institutes which all have thermal spraying as their common interest and goal. Nonetheless, its legal status is still that of a registered association which has dedicated itself to the promotion of thermal spraying as firmly stated in its statutes. The GTS objectives are to:

• ensure the quality of thermal spraying,
• identify and label thermal spray products by means of certification and
• promote thermal spray technology.

The extended Board (Executive Board and Advisory Board) meets regularly to determine the future strategies and broader objectives of GTS. These are then presented to GTS members at the Annual General Meeting, the association’s highest decision-making body, which thus takes the final decision on such proposals.

Figure 4: The organizational structure of GTS


Figure 5: The current GTS Executive Board and Advisory Board
See also: GTS Management Team

These goals include the implementation of GTS interests with respect to regulatory and legislative procedures, in particular concerning issues not directly connected with thermal spraying, such as environmental protection and industrial health and safety reforms. GTS endeavours to influence the allocation of development funds within the context of government grants for comparative research, is proactive in the compilation of standards and regulations, arranges and conducts extensive training courses, either directly or via institutes, and organizes specialist conferences with presentations and exhibitions. It is precisely these activities which underscore the advantages an association has over the more limited leverage of individuals acting on their own.

GTS works very closely and successfully with DVS e.V. – the German Welding Society in Düsseldorf –, but has preserved its independence at the same time.

5. GTS today


The main cause for concern when founding GTS were reservations regarding the undesired know-how transfer which could result from open communication among the association’s members. Consequently, the many small businesses, in particular, were afraid of losing customers and orders. This fear of contact has been overcome. In fact, the reverse is now the case: in the meantime, smaller circles have been set up within GTS with the aim of furthering this communication and the exchange of know-how. One such circle to be commended is the Newcomer@GTS-Kreis, which represents the young successor generation of GTS and has built up an effective network of contacts and connections.

In the future, however, GTS can only gain new members if it continues to convince new companies that membership will bring them commercial and technological benefits without the risk of knowledge about processes, technology and customers being siphoned off by other members, i.e. as their competitors.

Our endeavours to provide the Association of Thermal Sprayers a broad, national and even international base have been successful. This is demonstrated by the keen interest from thermal spray organizations around the world in working with GTS.

Nevertheless, an important task over the next few years will be to find the right approach to establishing a sound and sensible basis for working with foreign organizations in the future. Recent experiences drawn from joint international activities show that we are far from a “global union” as expressed by the fundamental notions of GTS, and this is still largely due to the differing cultures and interests involved. In this respect, the desired intensive exchange of know-how is undoubtedly an enormous step in the right direction. Then only by finding solutions to problems at the highest level can the advancement of thermal spraying be ensured.

6. GTS activities


GTS offers its members a wide range of services and is active in many areas in consolidating the interests of its members:


Figure 6: Examples of GTS services for members, from left: GTS homepage, GTS Strahl,
standards service and updating, public relations

Quality assurance at a high level with certification by neutral third parties, currently SLV Munich, affiliate of GSI mbH: with its GTS certificate, the Association of Thermal Sprayers has created the only certificate worldwide which, in addition to the Quality Management elements of DIN EN ISO 9001:2000, certifies thermal spray personnel, thermal spray processes and, on request, also thermal spray products or coatings.

Education and training of thermal sprayers: GTS pioneered the compilation of rules for training thermal sprayers and specialists. GTS regulations thus formed the basis for EWF training guidelines which are now valid internationally. In the meantime, several hundred persons have qualified as European Thermal Sprayers (ETS) and around 150 as European Thermal Spraying Specialists (ETSS) after being trained by SLV Munich.

Updating of standards and technical bulletins for GTS members: the GTS update service provides every GTS member with the latest, updated standards and technical bulletins on thermal spraying, and the good news is: these standards are applied in businesses on a daily basis as confirmed by a recent internal GTS survey.

Standards: GTS members are also actively involved in designing new standards, guidelines and technical bulletins. Thanks to this close co-operation with other members, they are in a position to ensure the resulting regulations are oriented to practical requirements and therefore functional and applicable.

Worldwide patent monitoring: the GTS patent service informs every GTS member about the latest patents and patent applications. Members thus have sufficient time to react, if necessary, by filing an objection for example. Since the service was introduced in July 1995, more than 440 patent updates were sent to GTS members.

Our own mouthpiece – “GTS-Strahl”: Since it was first published in December 1994, 17 issues of GTS-Strahl have come out, the last as a special edition to coincide with the 7th HVOF Colloquium. In addition to scientific contributions and reports from the GTS Head Office, GTS-Strahl offers each individual member a platform for technical contributions or articles of a more personal nature. Furthermore, the journal …

• reports on new developments, facts and figures, and news from within GTS,
• encourages us to look beyond the boundaries of thermal spraying and to pass on our knowledge about
  related methods and technologies,
• and supports the promotion and expansion of thermal spraying.

Press and public relations activities: a further instrument to promote thermal spraying is the use of intensive public relations. In collaboration with the Munich agency Mertig Marktkommunikation, 300 articles about GTS members and their particular thermal spray applications and innovations have appeared in specialist publications within a very short time. The success of such well-directed activities confirms how worthwhile this commitment is.

A current list of all the articles published can be found on the GTS website (, many of which can already be downloaded.

Online information source on the Internet: The GTS website is not only a source of information for members. Customers and those interested in thermal spraying can also learn about the technology and its different processes. With its extensive links, the website serves as a portal to members, associations, publishers, research sites and technology exchanges related to thermal spraying. Overviews of current and upcoming dates and events, publications and standards complete this service offer.

30,000 hits alone were registered in the first half of 2006, confirming the breadth of interest in such a specialist field and how important and valuable this means of communication is.

Promoting the technology with the GTS exhibition booth: designed with a great deal of dedication and commitment, the exhibition booth is a further focal point of GTS activities and has enhanced the association’s attendance at national and international fairs and expositions over the past few years. GTS is represented at around three trade fairs a year and can therefore impart to visitors the extremely broad spectrum of thermal spray applications, demonstrated with the aid of a wide range of exhibits provided by GTS members. The latter, moreover, actively offer advice and consultancy at the GTS booth, thus catering for the needs of the association and putting aside their own individual company interests. In this way, every GTS member benefits from trade fair activities as all the customer contacts made are available to all GTS members on request.

The positive response experienced at the exhibition booth has encouraged us to maintain the course we have followed up to now in order to broaden the base of thermal spraying.

Figure 7: Presenting and publicizing thermal spray technology
at the association’s own exhibition booth.

GTS keeps its members up to date on the latest technology by way of conferences and workshops. To be commended are those workshops which take place at the GTS Annual General Meeting and the HVOF Colloquium. The latter is now being organized for the 7th time, and GTS is again actively involved. The last colloquium in Erding (near Munich) 2003 was one of the most successful conferences in this field with more than 400 participants from 27 countries. GTS also plays a decisive role in the planning and design of the International Thermal Spray Conferences (ITSC).

The highest awards for individual persons and GTS member-companies testify to the national and international acclaim which GTS and its members enjoy:

The René Wasserman Prize, to the value of 10,000 Swiss francs and conferred every three years, has so far been awarded to the following organizations:
• RS Rittel GmbH in Gladbeck, Germany
• SLV Munich, affiliate of GSI mbH, Munich, Germany
• OBZ Dresel & Grasme GmbH in Bad Krozingen, Germany

The following GTS members have been admitted to the ASM Hall of Fame:
• Prof. emeritus Hans-Dieter Steffens
• Rene Wasserman
• Prof. Erich Lugscheider
• Prof. Heinrich Kreye

The GTS Ring of Honour has so far been awarded to:
• Prof. emeritus Hans-Dieter Steffens
• Prof. Erich Lugscheider
• Dr. Bruno Walser
• Prof. emeritus Witold Milewski
• Frithjof Zentner
• Dr. Hartwig Reimann
• Dr. Gerd Kraume

Figure 8: Bearer of the GTS Ring of Honour

The GTS Innovation Award has so far been conferred on
• Thomas Grund,
• Markus Brühl


Figure 9: Winner of the GTS Innovation Award 2006: Markus Brühl, IOT/RWTH Aachen, Germany

Moderation and mediation: GTS stands by its members in internal issues as well as personal matters, endeavours to mediate and help where possible, and can thus provide a certain measure of care and protection to every GTS member.

The response from the market clearly shows that GTS membership assures companies competitive advantages over the “backyard companies” one hears about so often.

7. GTS – its future and its trends


GTS is currently devoting a great deal of time and energy to finding and making funds available for research and development – a task which our research institutes can hardly manage alone and which GTS can support with intensive lobbying. This is an absolute imperative for thermal spraying. Without ongoing R&D campaigns, neither progress nor growth will be possible in our branch in the future. Up to now, the State has failed to recognize this fact and continues to cut public funds where it can.

GTS will therefore focus on funding the research and further development of thermal spraying in the future, along with universities and institutes involved in GTS.

The existing network of GTS members on a national and international level and in a wide variety of thermal spray associations and institutions is unique and gives us the means to exert influence for the benefit of GTS.

Figure 10: GTS as a connective link


8. Summary Seitenanfang

We, the member companies, the Executive and Advisory Boards, and the Quality Committee of GTS, are convinced that we have been pursuing the right strategy and have adopted the right approach to achieving our objectives for the last 14 years. This becomes even more evident when we are contacted by organizations abroad which need help in setting up structures similar to GTS or wish to join our association.

To conclude, one point needs to be underscored: the Association of Thermal Sprayers is still the only thermal spray organization of its kind worldwide to compile and implement its own quality, interface and process guidelines which far exceed the requirements of ISO standards. And we do not wish this to change in any way. We can proudly look back on what we have accomplished and, without resting on our past laurels, are prepared to take on future challenges.

“Triple S” that’s GTS.

9. References


[1] Reimann, H: GTS – Gemeinschaft Thermisches Spritzen e. V., 5. HVOF-Kolloquium 2000, Erding






Last updated: 23.10.09 Home Copyright (C) 2009 GTS e.V.