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Monday, 23 September 2019

The laboratory of the future - how should it look like?

Thursday, 5 November 2015 | Posted by: Sonja Schulte, European Coatings Journal

I recently read an article by an experienced coatings expert in which he described his vision for the lab of the future. This seems to be an issue that is attracting the close attentions of the international coatings industry. Science fiction? More likely fictional (coatings) science (labs).

Our expert wrote that the coatings industry was rather conservative by nature and that it lacked the creativity to look to the future. This was not his personal opinion, he added, but rather the findings of a survey among German paint engineers. Is the coatings industry really so conservative?  In some areas, definitely. The sharing of information is a prime example. Paint makers are loath to divulge information about their formulations even when problem-solving could be speeded up if, say, a supplier of raw materials knew what the other ingredients in the problem coating system were. But I digress. Let’s get back to the lab of the future.

Optimisation and simplification needed

The aforementioned author contended that digitization, networking, mobility and new customer requirements would all impact on this lab. He felt that sweeping process optimisation and simplification would be the main drivers of such a lab. And, that outlay on time and costs would have to be minimised. He was essentially talking about laboratory automation. Now, this is clearly nothing new in some areas.  Indeed, it is already common practice in colour formulation and in the standardised weighing out of coating raw materials, where everything is operated via the touch-screens we are all familiar with from our smart-phones. Touch-screens are also used to control everything in the modular paint factory (MOFA). There, the future has already arrived. Standard laboratory equipment, too, is coming under scrutiny as manufacturers consider ways to use gestures, for example, to open drawers. They could even equip instruments with facial recognition tools to allow only authorized users to operate them. There are all sorts of ideas for the laboratory of the future and the list could go on and on. In the end, though, if the whole process is to be made more efficient and to remain viable in the future, the ideas need to be implemented.

Which one item of equipment do you think every lab will need in the future?

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Author

Sonja Schulte
European Coatings Journal
Sonja Schulte
Editor-in-Chief, Science & Technology
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