SeitenanfangThe GTS – from an idea to an established association

Within the group of surface coating technologies, thermal spraying offers the widest range of applications and can therefore be found in all sectors of trade and industry. Users of thermal spraying can be divided into three groups:

  1. In-house production: users add value to their products by applying thermal spraying on their own premises.
  2. Service companies: businesses offer thermal spray services on a contract basis as so-called job shops. They usually specialize in one or two process areas, but can often provide additional processes as well.
  3. Research and development in industry itself or in universities and academies: this group ranks third in terms of the number of spray systems in operation.

It goes without saying that the interests of these three groups of thermal spray users differ vastly. This therefore presented an ideal opportunity to bring together job shops, enterprises and institutes to establish an association for promoting thermal spraying and undertaking joint activities. Leading representatives from this expanding sector of industry met to explore the possibilities and subsequently founded the Association of Thermal Sprayers, “Gemeinschaft Thermisches Spritzen e.V.” (GTS). The aim was to ensure the long-term commercial viability of its individual members in the thermal spray sector on the surface technology market, expand the awareness of the technology and work out the quality standards.

SeitenanfangGTS objectives

The Association of Thermal Sprayers (GTS) was founded by 13 companies on 22 October 1992 after intensive and dedicated preparatory work. The GTS logo was specially designed for the association and is officially registered.

GTS is an association which is open to all users and supporters of thermal spraying throughout Europe. The primary aims of the association’s founders were to acquaint a wide industrial public with thermal spray technology, to promote thermal spraying in conjunction with the German Welding Society (DVS), in research and industry, and finally, to support all its members in the industrial marketing of this technology. The joint activities of GTS are designed to represent the market interests of its members and to uphold these interests where necessary. In doing so, a high coating quality and corresponding quality assurance remain paramount.

From the very outset, it was clear that the general certification of member companies by state or state-accredited institutions in terms of ISO 9000ff could not be the sole means of successfully securing a high thermal spray level. Therefore, a GTS certificate was established based on the contents of ISO 14922 and a comprehensive set of rules was created:

Paper No. Titel Comment
GTSPA001 GTS Statutes Fundamentals of the association
GTSPA003 GTS Quality Management Guidelines Describes how GTS interprets quality assurance
GTSPA004 GTS Application Form Application for certification by GTS member company
GTSPA007 GTS Implementation Regulations Defines the obligations of a GTS member
GTSPA009 GTS Certificate GTS certificate itself
GTSPA010 GTS Explanatory Notes on Certificate Inspection Certification procedure as specified by the independent inspection authority
GTSPA011 GTS Certification Cost Lis
 – internal –
Certification costs incurred by GTS
GTSPA012 GTS Certification Costs
– external –
Certification costs incurred by the independent inspection authority
GTSPA013 GTS QM Company Inspection Procedure for personnel, process and, if necessary, product inspection
GTSPA014 GTS Questionnaire and educational software GTSExam Questionnaire (multiple-choice) for the personnel inspection, GTS Thermal Spray Specialist and GTS Qualified Sprayer
GTSPA015 GTS Test Specimen GTS-001 Flat test specimen for manual and mechanical spraying
GTSPA016 GTS Test Specimen GTS-002 Rotationally symmetric test specimen for manual and mechanical spraying
GTS Membership Fees GTS rates, share of costs and administration fee
GTS Membership Application Application form for new members to join GTS e.V
GTS Product Certification Describes the procedure of the GTS Product Certification
GTSPA020 GTS Coating Certification Describes the procedure of the GTS Coating Certification
GTSPA021 GTS Certification Procedure Describes the GTS certification procedure from application to re-audit and relevant deadlines
GTSPA022 *) Important Statutory Regulations Important statutory regulations for operators of thermal spray systems
GTSPA023 *) GTS Explosion Protection Document Blueprint in accordance with § 6 BetrSichV (regulation on operating safety); for thermal spray systems
GTSPA024 Checklist for GTS Certification Checklist for GTS members in order to prepare the GTS certification
GTSPA025 Thermal Spray Booth Design Guidelines The original document SG003-03 “Thermal Spray Booth Design Guidelines” from ASM International TSS Safety Committee
GTSPA026 GTS Flow Chart Shows GTS internal workflow from admission of a member through to certification and interim and re-audits
GTSPA027 GTS Schedule of Legal Provisions Overview of prevailing laws and statutory provisions for thermal spray businesses with options for recording and adminstrating evaluations and responsibilities (Excel tables)
GTSPA028 GTS Surveillance Audit Form Form for carrying out the annual surveillance audit as part of GTS certification
GTSPA029 GTS Compliance Guidelines Describes the compliance principles of GTS and provides guidance in the daily work of the association
GTSPA030 GTSPA030 GTS Risk Assessment Template for GTS members for compiling a risk assessment in compliance with the occupational health and safety act
GTSPA031 GTS Members Directory Addresses and contact persons of GTS member companies
    *) German-language papers
November 2021

GTS paper GTSPA001 forms the basis of the association and its statutes. The "GTS Quality Management Guideline" (GTSPA003) defines how GTS conceives the term quality assurance. There are currently 25 GTS papers in total which have been defined and implemented. They ensure that the association’s activities are conducted in a proper manner, including the certification procedures for its members.

These additional requirements which the company and its products are obliged to fulfil in the field of thermal spraying raise certified GTS members to a level well above that of general certification. They also give due consideration to the business structures of thermal spray users operating in the market place, predominantly small and medium-sized companies. All the measures implemented by GTS must also be affordable to its members. A realistic cost-benefit ratio must thus be the principal objective.

The GTS idea is currently supported by a broad base of European companies and institutes and therefore underscores the soundness of this idea and the association’s tremendous prospects.

SeitenanfangHow GTS is organized

The GTS Management Team

The association’s procedures and measures are governed by the prevailing GTS statutes and additional papers specific to GTS. At the Annual General Meeting, the individual members determine the direction and approach taken by GTS. The Executive Board elected at these meetings represents GTS externally.

organi97a.GIF (19857 Byte)

The Executive Board is elected by GTS members for a term of two years. The Executive Board also comprises the Chairman of the Quality Committee. This committee is responsible for ensuring that the rules and regulations for GTS certification are drawn up and monitored in accordance with the statutes and for completing the actual certification procedure. In an astonishingly short period of less than 30 months, the highly motivated Quality Committee compiled the comprehensive body of regulations. In addition to the members of the GTS Executive Board, the Quality Committee is also made up of at least five GTS members and a representative of an independent certification authority (currently GSI mbH).

This independent certification authority is essential to ensure that the regulations and procedures drawn up by the Quality Committee are observed and that GTS sovereignty is maintained as a result.

The GTS Executive Board is supported by the GTS Advisory Board, consisting of high-ranking thermal spray representatives from research and industry.

SeitenanfangThe GTS Certificate

gts9704a.gif (8423 Byte)Conventional quality management systems (QM systems) such as those which comply with ISO 9000ff enjoy worldwide recognition and have already been extensively applied in industry. The full implementation of a QM system is, in fact, increasingly demanded by industry itself. The extensive QM system provided by ISO 9000ff, for example, consists of 20 elements which must be considered during the certification process. These elements are designed to make operational procedures transparent and reproducible by means of large-scale documentation. However, ISO 9000ff does not take into consideration the process-specific needs of industry or its individual sectors.

ISO 9000ff and GTS certificate
– A major difference

The founders of GTS deemed this general quality management system insufficient to successfully establish a company on the market. Their idea was to distinguish GTS members from other thermal spray users by means of a defined and verifiable quality standard for high-quality thermal spray products.

But how can this be achieved among competitors who have to operate in the marketplace under the most stringent economic conditions? Which GTS measures or regulations allow members to exist side by side and simultaneously undergo quality inspections without their business being adversely affected or even hampered? For understandable reasons, members will always have certain apprehensions when confronted by a possible transfer of know-how between competitors, for example, via an inspection. When compiling the GTS certification rules, the authors therefore took great pains to ensure that quality standards were not watered down or that quality certificates for association members could not be issued too liberally.

The triple “S” principle – solidarity, sincerity and state of the art – makes GTS strong and is an imperative for all the association’s undertakings. This is the key to the success of GTS at the present time.

The structure of GTS certification

The principle of GTS certification can be illustrated by using the structure of a building - from laying the foundations to the finished and furnished home.

Existing thermal spray standards, guidelines and technical bulletins form the solid foundations for GTS certification.

gtshaus1.gif (5268 Byte)
Thermal spray rules and regulations form the solid foundations of GTS

Naturally, GTS certification requires an efficient QM system. The GTS set of rules and regulations states that a number of QM elements based on ISO 9001 must be examined in full during the certification procedure. These elements form the sturdy walls of the GTS structure. They are as follows:

GTS-Haus 2
The GTS building is given stable walls by the requirements resulting from ISO 14922. It describes the quality requirements for manufacturers of thermally sprayed coatings.

The GTS QM specimen manual, which has been adapted to the needs of thermal spraying and has been supplied to every member in written form or as a data file if requested, provides valuable assistance when compiling the company-specific GTS QM manual as stipulated.

The manual must address the remaining elements in writing; however, these elements are only inspected in terms of their conformity. These elements are as follows:

Should any of the elements not be available in the GTS member company applying for certification, this must be recorded in the QM manual.

The process-, personnel- and product-related certificate

The first process-, personnel- and product-related certificate for thermal spraying in the world forms the heart of GTS certification is. This sets GTS members well above conventional certification levels.

GTS-Haus 3
GTS membership depends on:
– personnel inspection
– process inspection
– where relevant, product inspection

The quality control of products can only be carried out in a competitively neutral manner - without any transfer of know-how – by inspecting and monitoring measures which influence the manufacture of the product. For GTS these procedures include:

The GTS member can also have a specific product certified by means of a voluntary product inspection. The GTS member or the member’s customer specifies the quality standard for this inspection. This means that no spray parameters are disclosed to GTS or to the independent certification authority.

The procedure could be conducted as follows, for example:

A titanium turbine blade must be coated with yttrium-stabilised zirconium oxide by means of vacuum plasma spraying without any mechanical post-treatment. Reference specimens also need to be coated. The spray company specifies its quality criteria which are then checked by the independent certification authority. These may, for example, be the surface roughness, coating thickness, bond strength pursuant to ISO 14916 and the porosity of the coating. The results are only disclosed to the contracting party and the independent certification authority. If the independent certification authority concludes that the company can achieve the desired quality with reproducible results, the GTS certificate is issued for the product specified.

This gives the company the opportunity to advertise the special properties of its product, that is, the properties determined by a neutral inspection authority. In this way, a transfer of know-how is not possible.

The GTS certificate – assuring high quality standards

After passing the GTS company inspection and being awarded GTS certification, the bearer of the certificate has a QM system which has been tailored specifically to thermal spray requirements.

As a result of its close and productive cooperation with DVS Zert e.V., GTS enables its members to obtain additional certification pursuant to ISO 9000ff, which, in combination with GTS certification, is comparatively cost-effective and is not time-intensive.

The GTS member has now completed the “GTS building” which comprises certification pursuant to ISO 9000ff with additional elements specific to thermal spraying from ISO 14922.

GTS-Haus 4
GTS membership
and certification

GTS obliges its members to assure thermal spray quality in accordance with the GTS quality management guideline. To ensure these requirements are met, self-monitoring is carried out by the certified GTS member and re-audits are conducted by an independent authority every three years. Interim audits are also possible at the member company at any time.

Procedure for obtaining the GTS certificate

Ablaufplan GTS-Zertifikat

A competitive edge with the GTS certificate

The successful GTS company inspection on the basis of a quality assurance system specifically designed for thermal spraying entitles GTS members to hold and use the GTS certificate in the market place.

Scope of the GTS company inspection

Umfang der GTS-Betriebsprüfung

The benefits the GTS certificate-holder enjoys can be summed up in the following key words: a “secure market position” and “advertising effectiveness”. The GTS certificate indicates the quality level which the thermal spray company offers. GTS certification has been in effect since September 1995, and many GTS members have already been awarded their GTS certificate after passing the GTS company inspection. Customers looking for a contractor to perform thermal spray services are already specifying that the contractor be a GTS certificate-holder as a benchmark for providing the desired quality.

For all GTS members from trade and industry who thermally spray finished parts or semi-finished products, the GTS certificate will soon form the basis for acquiring orders at a high-quality level.

SeitenanfangAdditional services and advantages for GTS members

GTS facilitates the flow of information pertaining to thermal spraying and supports an exchange of experiences between its members in a variety of ways:

Participation in legislation and standardization

GTS members are actively involved in the compilation of standards, guidelines and technical bulletins for thermal spraying. This ensures that prevailing standards and legislation take into consideration the needs of small and medium-sized companies in particular.

By special request, the GTS Executive Board is now able to provide its members with all the relevant thermal spray standards, guidelines and technical bulletins at a very reasonable price. This information is regularly updated by the association’s update service.

United in our aims

As a result of its joint commitment and undertakings, GTS has successfully obtained the national and international influence necessary to gain the recognition thermal spraying deserves, also in the eyes of the legislators when drafting new laws and regulations.

GTS, the Association of Thermal Sprayers, is a relatively young association which has managed to establish itself in the market place in a very short space of time and to effectively implement the ideas of thermal spraying. This has only been possible because all its members outwardly support and reflect the vision of GTS.