Automation, production monitoring through on-line characterisation and an overview of all process steps are all topics that need to be focused on when the production process is being optimised, says Dr FeIipe Wolf-Fabris from the European Centre for Dispersion Technologies (EZD) in our interview.
Which trends are you currently observing in paints and coatings production technology?
One trend that I am currently seeing is production monitoring, which can be carried out, e.g., by an on-line characterisation system. However, this usually lends itself only to the production process and not to the final inspection. New on-line characterisation methods in the submicron and nanometre range are in particularly great demand. In this context, we and several partners have developed an in-line measurement system based on dynamic light scattering.
Additionally analytical methods and metrology in the production of nanostructured systems are becoming increasingly important. This was the reason behind the setting up of the “Nanoanalytics and Metrology in Production” network (NAMIP, www.nanoanalytik.info), of which the EZD is a founding member. There is also a growing trend in favour of production line flexibilisation.
We are observing a growing trend towards considering the various dispersing processes of a product in the round. Most of the companies we work with have different process steps in their production, which are interlinked but are often treated separately. Here it is extremely important to keep an eye on the entire dispersion process.
Small improvements in predispersion can have a very positive effect on fine dispersion. This gives us great leverage for increasing the energy efficiency of the entire dispersion process. In addition, we are receiving more and more inquiries about determining the end point of the dispersion process with greater precision. This is another way to save energy in production.
What do you believe to be one of the greatest challenges facing dispersion technology today?
From my point of view, the greatest challenge lies in connecting the right on-line characterisation systems to the production lines and in “communicating” with them. The measuring parameters, in particular, must always be determined from product to product, i.e. we are still a long way from a “plug and play” concept for on-line characterisation. I also see another big challenge in the evaluation of the dispersion method, which always depends on the product, i.e. the formulation, viscosity, initial size, target fineness, etc.
What role does automation play in production technology?
Automation can ensure higher product quality, as fixed processes are always carried out identically. Furthermore, the working conditions for employees in production become safer, especially with regard to the use of hazardous substances. For the automation of production technology, the logging of system and measured variables is necessary, and that significantly increases the traceability of production.
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