Speed circuit for coating formulations shortens development time

07 March 2017

With its new, fully automated plant for testing coating formulations, Evonik can accelerate the search for optimal formulations. The high-throughput plant enables the company to systematically test more formulations over the same period of time than before. For Evonik’s customers, this means they can optimise and develop their coating formulations quicker, saving valuable time when launching new products into the market.

The number of combinations of substances for coatings formulations is enormous: Even if only 10 hardeners, 10 binding agents, 10 pigments and 10 additives are to be taken into account in the development of a coating formulation, this results in 104 or 10,000 combinations. And this does not even include variations in proportions.

In practice, it is impossible to cover the complete range of possibilities or to test the properties of all combinations and proportions. However, a systematic search for the optimal coating formulation requires exactly that: examination of an enormous range of options. With the set-up of their high throughput plant, the coatings experts at Evonik have found a solution for this dilemma.

In the first step, the plant dispenses raw materials automatically and formulates them into coatings. In the second step, the substrates are coated with the formulations, dried, and then transported to the test stand. At the test stand, the properties of the formulations are characterised. All steps are carried out automatically according to a precisely defined programme that can be reproduced at any time.

The plant consists of 52 elements that are combined in 30 functionalities; each functionality is designed to handle a specific task (for example, to apply a coating formulation to a substrate). The 52 elements are connected by a rail system that goes through all parts of the plant; on the rail systems, containers and substrates are transported via shuttle. In addition, there are 13 robots that carry out various activities, such as loading the shuttle or placing coated substrates in the oven.

Within 24 hours, an average of 120 samples can be formulated in the plant. While these are being applied to a substrate and characterised, the experiments for a new project can be initiated.

Thanks to sophisticated technology and software, the HTE plant is extremely reliable and reproducible at any time. It registers any deviations from the target value and saves them. This means that in the case of conspicuous results, it is easy to check if there have been any irregularities in the work processes.

With up to 600 parameters, 40 different work steps can be defined precisely in the HTE plant. This enables Evonik to freely combine the individual steps in a workflow and to incorporate the diverse requirements of the customers.

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