Investing in innovation to dazzle our customers

News /
12 June 2012
Investing in innovation to dazzle our customers

Powder paints are made of lots of things – pigments, additives, fillers – all with particular roles to play. But without the help of one vital ingredient, they would only add up to a pile of dust. Polymers are what bring powder paints to life.

Also called resins, they’re essentially a bunch of chemicals that wrap up all the other ingredients and give a powder coating its innate characteristics; its ability to flow when heated, its unique mechanical and chemical performance capabilities.

Like many coatings manufacturers, AkzoNobel buys in most of its polymers, working with suppliers to develop polymer ‘recipes’. Increasingly, however, suppliers can’t move as nimbly or as smartly as we would like. “They are too removed from customers; it’s hard for them to appreciate what we need,” explains Gareth Crapper, Innovation Manager. The answer was obvious; replace our limited polymer development facilities with a brand-new, dedicated laboratory!

In April, we’re opening a €3 million Research, Development and Innovation Centre at our plant in Felling, UK. As well as a fully-equipped laboratory for polymer development, it has a mini polymer production plant and a state-of-the-art application line. As Crapper points out: “Much of the know how that’s needed to be successful also comes from the ability to accurately represent how our customers apply the powder coatings.”

The lab will work on both improving existing products and developing totally new technology such as very low-temperature curing powders suitable for wood, plastics and thermally-sensitive alloys. “This is the really innovative area, and the new markets we are keen to target.” says Crapper. “It’s where we’re placing our bets that we’ll change the game!”

AkzoNobel has a good track record of polymer development, from a water-spotting-resistant architectural coating that is, crucially, non-toxic, unlike our competitors’ products to a new polymer technology capable of giving the high-flow and high-gloss finishes demanded by the automotive industry.

The Centre is also home to two of AkzoNobel’s six Expert Capability Groups (ECGs), with specialisms in materials physics and colloid science. Co-located with Business Unit R&D groups around the world, the ECGs are a shared research organization, using their high-level expertise in core scientific disciplines to support all the Business Units. “They work on our key innovation projects – the big R&D challenges,” explains Dale Laidler, RD&I Communications Leader. “Working in partnership with the BUs, they focus on making scientific breakthroughs to stimulate game changing innovations.” Current examples are the work on surface conductivity to improve coating finishes and reduce curing temperatures, and improving the performance of spray-applied coatings through understanding the connection between formulation and flow properties.

Interpon Powder Coatings

At Interpon we’re well established as the local powder coatings market leader with more than 25 years of product development here in Australia to suit our environment.

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