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Eugene Yumshtyk and Gennady Yumshtyk at the Paradigm Shift Technologies manufacturing plant in Toronto on March 28. They have invented a new technology for applying the metallic coating inside of gun barrels that is more environmentally friendly.Jennifer Roberts/The Globe and Mail

In a meeting room in the front office of Paradigm Shift Technologies’s north Toronto factory, chief operating officer Eugene Yumshtyk opens a small case and pulls out two heavy metallic objects.

The items are cross sections of Bushmaster gun barrels. For each, one side is rounded and the other flat, with a long groove running down the middle where bullets once flew.

The outsides of the gun barrel sections are identical. But the insides are different. One cross section, labelled CHROME, is burned and deeply scarred, with fractures showing the wear-and-tear generated from thousands of fired shots.

The other, marked EPVD, shows only the beginning signs of wear – and yet it handled nearly twice as many bullets, Mr. Yumshtyk said.

EPVD stands for Electro-magnetically enhanced Physical Vapor Deposition, a patented process for coating the inside of gun barrels. It was invented to replace traditional chrome plating by Gennady Yumshtyk – Eugene’s father and Paradigm Shift’s chief executive officer – who sits across from him in the boardroom of their company.

“They have longer barrel life, higher accuracy, and, of course, improved performance,” the CEO said.

Inventing and testing the technology was one thing. But navigating the byzantine maze of defence procurement has been another. And with European militaries and arms makers showing interest in the technology, and little attention so far from Ottawa, the elder Mr. Yumshtyk said he is not sure if his company can stay in Canada, as much as he would like to.

Mr. Yumshtyk was born in Ukraine and earned a PhD in mechanical engineering at the National Technical University in Minsk, Belarus. He immigrated to Canada in the 1980s and found work in the oil-and-gas industry in Alberta, where he worked on how to increase the durability of metal tubes used in high-temperature and high-pressure environments.

He was speaking at a conference in Montreal in 2001 when he was approached by a member of the U.S. Air Force, who told him the technology could have military applications.

And thus began his pivot into the defence industry. Mr. Yumshtyk moved to Toronto and filed a series of patents in Canada and the U.S. (Some patents also name a former colleague, Dmitri Ivanov.)

The insides of gun barrels need to be coated to withstand the high temperatures and pressures of fired projectiles. Coating increases the durability and longevity of the gun, as well as increasing the accuracy because the buildup of tiny cracks over time can increasingly alter a bullet’s trajectory.

“A gun barrel, when it operates, it’s almost like a living, breathing organism,” he said. “When it fires, it continuously expands and contracts.”

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Paradigm Shift’s technique involves sticking a rod of the coating agent into the gun barrel, capping the ends of the tube, filling it with an inert gas and charging it with an electric current.Jennifer Roberts/The Globe and Mail

Coating the inside of any tube – including a gun barrel – is challenging. In traditional chrome plating, the barrels are dipped into vats of a hexavalent chromium solution, which can lead to large quantities of hazardous waste. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency monitors hexavalent chromium as a pollutant, and poisoning from the chemical was the subject of the 2000 film, Erin Brockovich.

Paradigm Shift’s technique involves sticking a rod of the coating agent into the gun barrel, capping the ends of the tube, filling it with an inert gas and charging it with an electric current. The metal on the rod evaporates, coating the inside of the barrel evenly and leaving behind little chemical waste.

It was this environmental angle that first attracted the U.S. Air Force to him, Mr. Yumshtyk said. But when the Canadian and U.S. militaries jointly tested the technology, they discovered it also lasted longer.

A 2016 test using Bushmaster vehicle-mounted barrels showed that chrome-plated artillery was worn out after firing 4,500 shells, while the EPVD-coated barrel fired 7,000 shots and only stopped, Mr. Yumshtyk said, when they ran out of ammunition.

Paradigm Shift has received millions of dollars in public funding over the years to develop the technology. For example, the company received $1.3-million in 2017 from the Department of National Defence for testing, government records show, and two $30,000 export grants from the National Research Council to help it find foreign buyers. The company also received support through the U.S. Air Force Small Business Innovation Research program.

But getting the North American militaries interested in implementing new technology has been difficult, Mr. Yumshtyk said, as “it’s a very conservative industry.”

Alex Tétreault, a spokesperson for the DND, confirmed the Royal Canadian Navy has tested the EPVD-coated gun barrels, but declined to make any further comment.

Michael Tackitt, a spokesperson for the U.S. Air Force, also confirmed the testing and initially said it would make someone available for an interview, but has not done so as of publication time.

Mr. Yumshtyk said interest in the technology has been highest in Europe. In December, a committee of the European Chemicals Agency publicly endorsed the EPVD coating as a more environmentally friendly alternative to chrome plating.

Paradigm Shift is currently working with two major European weapons makers, in conjunction with their countries’ militaries, to implement the technology. (Mr. Yumshtyk declined to name the companies or countries.) Paradigm Shift may license the technology and train workers at those companies on how to use it.

But what they’d really like to do, Mr. Yumshtyk said, is to build a full production facility in Canada, where they can create jobs. To do that, he said, he would need the support of the Canadian government as a buyer.

He said he could have sold the rights to the technology years ago, “but I don’t want to do it, because my goal is different.”

He added: “Canadian gun barrel manufacturers send their barrels for chrome plating to the United States. I want to reverse that flow, not only of gun barrels, but of revenue.”

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