Archroma, a global leader in colour and specialty chemicals, has opened its new Global Centre of Excellence for Surface and Coating Technology. The Centre, based in Bradford, UK, underlines Archroma’s ambition to bring new barrier solutions to the packaging and specialty paper markets. Andy Bell, Global Head of Product Management Barrier, Coatings & Deposit Control, Packaging & Paper Specialties Business, spoke to us about the new opening and how it extends Archroma’s abilities and offerings.
Andy Bell, Global Head of Product Management Barrier, Coatings & Deposit Control, Packaging & Paper Specialties Business, Archroma
How is the new Centre of Excellence set up?
Archroma’s office in Bradford, UK, houses our new Global Centre of Excellence for Surface & Barrier Technology. It is also the base for the UK sales team for all Archroma’s businesses overall, so the site has for a long time had both a commercial sales and technical representation. I mention this because, for us, it is important that there is close, clear and frequent communication between these two functions to ensure everyone is close both to the customer and market requirements.
The new Global Centre of Excellence for Surface & Barrier Technology is an extension of the pre-existing Deposit Control laboratory, housing primarily scientists and laboratory experts. There is a great deal of technical experience here that goes back to the days of Clariant’s presence in Horsforth near Leeds, so we have a good mix of paper technologists and technicians. The specialist team in Bradford has a long track record of innovation and expertise in the area of deposit control. and it was decided to build upon that with three additional team members using this existing group as the base.
Can you summarize the main improvements to equipment and facilities?
As we already had some personnel, laboratory space and technical capability here in Bradford, we had the foundations in place to develop the new global laboratory by building both a new Surface & Coating laboratory and a temperature-controlled testing laboratory.
The laboratory space has effectively tripled to accommodate specialist equipment for the purposes of application testing and product development, which will allow our customers to hugely benefit from having such a competence centre at their disposal.
Some examples of the equipment include a size press that simulates the coating behaviour of starch-based solutions (in particular fluorochemicals), an ‘ACAV’ – a highly specialized high shear viscometer that shows the viscosity behaviour of barrier chemistry under paper machine coating conditions, and a sheen automatic coater – which is used for producing coated samples at various coat weights using wire wound rods. These are just a few examples of the extensive investments we have made to ensure our ongoing drive for high performance solutions for our customers.
Archroma’s Global Center of Excellence for Surface & Barrier Technology in Bradford, a photo looking across the new lab
How will those improvements impact on Archroma’s service offerings?
It is part of our strategy and philosophy to work closely with customers, understand their problems or requirements and to work with them on those. It could be understanding their current problems by performing some sort of analytics, or trying to simulate and improve the customer system by undertaking work to be able to then go back and make improvement recommendations to them.
It is often the same person who visits the customer who then comes back to the laboratory and works on the same topic in the technical center.
The team also contributes to new ‘innovation projects’.
A need for expansion suggests a growing underlying demand. Are you seeing an increased demand for these services? Where is that demand coming from?
Archroma’s technical centre for surface, barrier and deposit control is global in reach, so we are in contact and work with our sales teams and customers in all corners of the globe.
There is always interest in new technologies and innovative solutions. In the portfolio are several product groups, including Cartaseal and Cartaguard barriers, Cartacoat emulsions, Cartabond crosslinkers and, of course, the Cartaspers deposit control products. Many products bring higher levels of performance for different required customer paper specifications and we can help with that, and our understanding of the paper process may also mean that we can offer something that will reduce paper production costs.
Archroma has demonstrated a clear focus on sustainability. Can you tell us about this?
At Archroma, we live by our motto: We continuously challenge the status quo in the deep belief that we can make our industry sustainable. This of course means that, for us in the Bradford Global Center of Excellence for Surface & Barrier Technology, sustainability is a major driver in product innovation and development to deliver more and more effective solutions for our customers that at the same time are safer for the worker and the consumer, and gentler on the planet.
What do you think are the most promising technologies for biodegradable barrier solutions?
One good example that springs to mind is that there has been a lot of press recently about the millions of take away coffee paper cups used and discarded every day. These usually include a polyethylene coating (PE), which is not biodegradable. To get away from this and other non-biodegradable components is something that can really make a difference. Archroma is working with biodegradable products, and this element is a very important one in our innovation project pipeline. The trend seems to be using naturally occurring substitutes such as modified starch, soya and palm fats. Some of these have already been commercialized and their success will be dependent ultimately on cost and performance.
In your opinion, what are the greatest opportunities for this sector at the moment?
I am biased of course, but our new Cartaseal VWF is an excellent product that imparts a barrier to oil, fats and grease and the like, and also provides a demanding water vapour barrier as well. It is also food contact approved. Such combinations of performance improvement is a good example of opportunities. We have also recently launched a product called Cartaseal SWF that is developed for Indigo printing. Cartaseal SWF can be used to enhance ink adhesion properties because Indigo printing involves the use of electrically charged particles in the ink, or to deliver thermosealing properties for food grade paper.
How is Archroma working to take advantage of those opportunities?
We talk a lot to customers and they often tell us what they want! We use this, and our market and technical knowledge, to feed into the priorities of the work that we undertake. This is especially evident in our innovation project management where it is important to align the industry requirements with our technical competences and sustainable responsibility. Cartaseal VWF and Cartaseal SWF are an illustration of just what we have developed as a result of this collaborative approach.