EC Conference Automation 2022

Keynote: Game changer automation and digitalization – also in paints and coatings

Dr Wolfram Keller, Wolfram Keller Professional Services, Germany

What has been a question “?” just a year ago, has now become a mandatory endeavor “!” for the coatings industry. Automation and digitalization are progressing at unprecedented speed and have turned to be instrumental for paint manufacturers to stay competitive in the mid and long term. Alternative, renewable raw materials won’t come from nowhere, neither will modified recipes, formulations and applications. End of life of a coated surface will no longer be the dump. Instead coated surfaces and excessive paints will need to be reused, reworked, or recycled, ideally generating secondary raw materials. Time, cost and effort to develop, test and apply new paints will need to be a fraction of today’s standards. Secure capturing, structuring, using, and archiving of material, equipment and process data will enable simulations, models, structure-and-effect-interdependencies, digital twins and so forth. Comprehensive raw material and product data bases will ease access to technical, chemical, physical, safety, and commercial data and thereby help coatings companies succeed. The challenges, though, are less originating from the outside world with its increasing digitalization progress, sustainability requirements, volatile supply chains and challenging regulations. They are, in fact, home made issues by the coatings industry. Automation and digitalization will help any coatings company and the entire industry, when pursuing three “common sense” approaches. Firstly, give up counter productive silo thinking. Secondly, be open to adopt state-of-the-art technologies and approaches from other industries. Thirdly, seek alliances to cope with external challenges you, as a single paint company, can’t master on your own

The Smart Paint Factory exemplified by the coatings lab: from routine treadmill to smart troubleshooter   

Dr Ulf Stalmach, Orontech, Germany

The possibilities to automatize the processes of the paint factory of the future with the help of digital tools are ever increasing. While still being just buzzwords in some areas, there are nevertheless concrete examples available. Based on these, lab technicians and paint chemists can start thinking about how their jobs will look like in the years to come. In our presentation, we want to demonstrate how that might look like by giving some examples. We will show how an automated environment for commercially available instruments will enable the automatization of routine measurements such as gloss, color, layer thickness etc. Another example demonstrates the automated, non-destructive measurement of corrosion test panels


Automating Complexity

Alejandro Gutiérrez, Transform Chemistry Innovation, Spain

Electrochemical Impedance Spectroscopy (EIS) and Fourier-Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR) are powerful techniques for characterization of coatings. Fitting EIS data to an equivalent circuit can provide information like barrier performance (based on coating resistance) and water uptake (based on coating capacitance). FTIR, on the other side, presents a unique chemical fingerprint of the coating that allows to monitor coating integrity. The complexity of EIS and FTIR data interpretation restricts its use to experienced users with advanced knowledge on both techniques fields (electrochemistry and spectroscopy) and coating technology, not always easy to find or train. It is also a waste of skilled personnel time to interpret high number of data produced by current multichannel devices and online monitoring systems. Even though the prices of portable potentiostats and FTIR analyzers had become affordable since the past decade, this knowledge-related restriction presents a real roadblock to upgrade formulation labs and inspection procedures with this technologies.


Simulation, Machine Learning, and Optimization in the Coatings Laboratory

Dr Erik Sapper, California Polytechnic State University, USA

Automation and robotics are becoming common technologies in the coatings industry. These technologies, which are disrupting material innovation and product development workflows, still ultimately rely on human intuition, decision making, and experiment design methodologies. As experimentation and testing becomes increasingly automated and resource-efficient, a commensurate improvement in the application of computational design tools is needed. These include simulation, machine learning, and multi-objective optimization methods. This talk will present updates on the incorporation of multiscale modeling, deep learning neural networks, and evolutionary optimization methods into coating development and qualification processes, with an emphasis on making decisions under uncertainty, overcoming barriers to implementation, and countering the culture change roadblocks that are often experienced across large organizations and cross-functional teams.


The digital transformation as innovation journey

Alexander Madl, Consultant, Germany

Digital transformation cannot be limited to implementing a new IT tool or upgrading a specific process. It goes to the core of all processes. It changes the way people interact, within one company and across the interfaces to suppliers, customers and network partners. Therefore the digital transformation needs to be also an innovation journey. The today’s structures need to get re-invented for a digital future. What is needed for this journey? Which tools can support organisations and employees during the transformation


Digital formulating of coatings and ingredients via web-apps

Sander van Loon, VLCI, The Netherlands

The applied predictive formulation sciences, Hansen Solubility Parameters (HSP) and Hydrophilic Lipophilic Difference (HLD), require specific parameters of ingredients, which are used in their respective equations to formulate very efficiently. Once the predictive ingredient parameters are obtained, other matching ingredients can be calculated to make predictions for any type of formulation: solution, dispersion or emulsion. Applying these sciences for the development of products, such as coatings and emulsion polymers, results in improved compatibility between ingredients and therefore, in the overall performance of formulated products. Also, it rationalizes the replacement of ingredients and to make new ingredients compatible with the rest of the formulation. Matching ingredients in this way, allows for the minimal number and amount of ingredients within formulations, produced with minimal energy input. This is a very efficient way to enhance the properties, in addition to reducing frustration, complexity, time and cost of developing coating formulations or ingredients. Moreover, the ingredient parameters are sustainable: you can use them repeatedly, allowing you to move away from trial-and-error and use digitalization in product developments. To obtain the predictive ingredient parameters, High Throughput (HT) screening is used to speed up data generation via automated, parallel and small-scale preparation of samples. The parameters are stored in a central database which is in the process of being linked to web-apps to digitally formulate end-products. These apps can be used as the first stage of experimentation, followed by a drastically streamlined amount of practical lab work needed, when compared to trial-and-error (and most DoE). The end-products can then be prepared, again via the HT. This digital formulating approach will be demonstrated, to show how this can boost efficient coating and ingredient developments.


Automation in Quality Control and Research and Development of Paints and Coatings

Tobias Burk & Dr. Roland Emmerich, Füll Lab Automation, Germany

In recent years, the automation of laboratory work and quality assurance work on paints and coatings has become increasingly important. This starts with simple tasks such as the accurate dosing of liquids and powders or the mixing of formulations and continues with the adjustment of viscosities, the grinding of formulations or the testing of gel time for 2K coating formulation. Finally, it requires application techniques such as pneumatic spraying and characterization of samples by destructive testing of coated substrates using methods such as cross hatch testing and mandrel bending. In addition, repeatability and comparability of results are essential and workflow requirements for different cases are different. Based on our patented BLS-syringe we have developed stand-alone units and modules for integration which allow performing all these tasks in fully automated systems. In this paper we will describe the basic set-up and functionality of such modules and present some use-cases and results.


Automation in paint production - even for variable recipes and batch Sizes

Dr Hans-Joachim Jacob, Ystral, Germany

Big volumes as typical in architectural paint, container coating, printing ink or paper coating production allow highly efficient automation methods. One trend is the standardization of slurries and intermediates which are used in a wide range of final products. Another trend is production in much bigger batch sizes. One single batch of 50.000 litres instead of many small batches. This is a typical example in flexo ink production. Powder addition and dispersion are made outside the tank, completely independent from batch size or filling level. Sometimes there is not even a classic production tank required – you produce in the big storage tanks directly. Much more challenging is the automation for variable batch sizes, for example from 200 to 6000 litres, and for hundreds of different recipes, of course with automatic cleaning to prevent from cross contamination when switching to the next batch. In the past many different dissolvers with tanks in different sizes have been required. Today just one single system does that job, with a maximum level of automation in production and cleaning. These systems with maximum flexibility are required for example in wood coating, coil coating or even in the pigment paste production with colour changes. The key factor for flexibility and variable batch sizes is exactly the same as for the production in very big batches: The Dispersion process is taken out of the tank. This way you can produce everything in every size - with just one single independent system. Automation of that single system gives 20 times more efficiency than any automation of batch size related dissolvers in different sizes.This size independent technology allows product development in small batch sizes and a worldwide production in any size as well. Quality is always constant since there is no operator influence. The traditional production philosophy in lacquer and paint industry is to produce a product, measure the quality, adjust the quality, measure again and adjust once more.  Reason is the lack of consistency and uncontrollable dispersion conditions using traditional technology. New technologies enable to produce constant quality and reproducible results immediately without adjustment. The systems are self-teaching and self-reacting on product requests. They are the most important step to implement Industry 4.0

Laboratory automation - high sample throughput and accuracy - a contradiction in terms?

Detlef Gysau, Chemspeed, Switzerland

Research and development is in the process of being transformed towards automation and digitization. The range of possibilities is increasing, as is the desire for high sample throughput. This is particularly pronounced in the area of routine work. It doesn't matter whether we are looking at product development or production monitoring, i.e. classic quality control. The common requirement is high, unattended sample throughput. Call it simply: “Push button and walk away.” Sounds good. Is it good too? Yes! A sufficiently high level of accuracy and reproducibility is required. If the requirements and processes for laboratory automation are clearly defined, the integrated hardware can generate a true symphony of science through the orchestrating software. Research results on the gravimetric overhead dispensing of liquid and highly viscous, but also powdery products are presented and discussed in the interplay of accuracy and dispensing speed as well as reproducibility.

On the fast track with Automation

Ellen Reuter, Evonik, Germany

Optimizing additive packages for coating formulations can be a very complex task. That is why Evonik, together with the Swiss manufacturer Chemspeed, has developed a fully automated laboratory-scale high-throughput system for the production of coating formulations, their application, and characterization. The presentation will show the very flexible use of this automated system in various projects and show examples from different application areas.

Batch management and the mobile control room

Verena Mersmann, ProLeiT, Germany

"We need an MES! We need to get an overview of the current orders and individual batches! We have to coordinate better" is today’s guiding principle of many companies. And most of them also have or are still looking for a software solution to close this information gap. But what does such an MES have to provide? While the goals have been very clear during the past years - cost transparency, batch size "1", conformity to stricter legal requirements, new types of materials / components and keeping pace with new technologies by, for example, using smart sensors – the current focus is on networking. While smart sensors and standardized interfaces routinely enable networking between machines, it is now also a matter of involving people into this network as well, supporting or replacing manual processes, placing the right information at the right time to the right employee and automating the evaluation by utilizing modern methods such as AI. An MES is thus no longer limited to the MIS contents and transparent reporting, into which a lot of brain power had previously been put, but becomes the central hub for planning, production and employee deployment - the brain of the entire value chain. This presentation is intended to demonstrate the central challenges, which have to be met by central batch management and a mobile control room within the color and coatings production: • Integration of autonomous systems
• Global operations of smart sensors and machines on company level • Optimization of employee deployment and employee information • Maximum production and cost transparency • Quality assurance and optimization

New online analysis enables automatic viscosity adjustment

Anders Østergard, Fluidan, Denmark

In a time when all industries are looking to optimize through full automation, the manual procedures involved in adjusting the viscosity of paints and coatings stand out as an obvious point of further automation. Today, up to half of all paint batches need viscosity adjustment at least one time, before they are within specification limits and can be packed. The online rheometer, RheoStream® from Fluidan can measure the viscosity in real time in the factory, attached to a mixing tank or storage tank. With real time viscosity measurement, it is possible to automate the viscosity adjustment, increasing “first-time-right”, saving time, resources and capacity. The presentation will show examples of laboratory and factory testing of RheoStream, and it will discuss the practical implementation of this new technology.

Digitalization and Automation – why you can’t do good automation without excellent digitalization

Mike Bach, Prisma, Germany

When we think about automation the first thing that comes in our mind is „good old“ industry 4.0 where production lines run without human handcraft. But, especially for the chemical and coatings industry, production is the – not less important- „end of the line“, and when we talk about automation, we have to take care of all other important processes finally leading to a product. To mention one of those processes, let’s have a closer look on formulation development. Even in these uncertain times where energy and resources are finally noticed as volatile goods, where price stability and availability isn‘t reliable no more, the digitalization and automation of the complete development process and material life cycle is not only necessary, it could be a show stopper and a game changer.

226 days head start for your R&D team:
How to automate non-value-added activities in the P&C development process?

Bojan Buianac, Bens Consulting, Slovenia

1.    What are the most common challenges in the P/C industry: sustainability, regulatory and ecolabel compliance, product environmental footprint, price performance, availability of materials, reformulation,...
2.    How to streamline and automate these processes and reduce the non-value-added activities?
3.    In the chemical industry, formulators combine various ingredients from multiple suppliers to create a new product.
4.    The output data of the supplier represents vital input data for the next company in the supply chain.
5.    Paints & coatings development process in a nutshell
6.    Imagine a 1 million raw materials database for the P&C industry, containing everything from parameters, properties, and complete composition information. Everything. All the data.
7.    How would such a database impact your business? How would it affect the formulation process?
8.    What are the minimum requirements to eliminate non-value-added activities and reduce the process throughput time by 48%
9.    Data-information-knowledge --> automation; microservices architecture!
10.    Fusion of regulatory and R&D activities/data
11.    Result: Full automation
12.    Outlook on the future

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