Research and Development Leads to Biogreen Coatings

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In the November 2021 issue of SMT007 Magazine, we featured a pre-productronica interview with Phil Kinner of Electrolube, who shared a preview of the company’s newest products that the company planned to launch at the show in Munich. He also explained why Electrolube tends to develop new products for customers before they ask for them.

Nolan Johnson: Electrolube (MacDermid Alpha Electronics Solutions) will be at productronica; give us a teaser.

Phil Kinner: This is the first show that we’ve been to in a while, and we have a couple of new products we are launching. One is a thermal gap filler, designed in China by our Chinese team with a thermal conductivity of 6 watts per meter K, which is really decent. We also have a new conformal coating with a high degree of bio-renewable source materials. Wherever possible, we sourced raw materials from renewable sources, which has less impact on the environment and improved product performance. Improved performance was what we were aiming for, and the bio-renewable aspect was a bonus.

Johnson: What should readers know about the gap filler you’re taking to productronica?

Kinner: For a reasonably high thermal connectivity, it has low viscosity, is easy to use, and is less abrasive on dispensing equipment than previous generations of material have been. Those are the main features of the products.

Johnson: How is that thermal gap filler applied?

Kinner: Typically, it’s a two-component material. It will be dispensed with a robotic dispensing system, but it’s also available in side-by-side cartridges for manual applications if required.

Johnson: With the new coating, is the goal to have better performance, with the added benefit to customers of making your entire supply chain green and bio-friendly? How did that come to be?

Kinner: Yes. We do a lot of work looking at harsh environments testing. We have been doing a lot of work with the National Physical Laboratory in England, particularly in condensation testing. We did pretty well compared to our peers, but one of the things that stood out was we knew we could do better. That really set us in the direction of, “Here’s the problem. How do we get better performance?” In listening to customers, we learned that UV curing is always of interest because it helps with single piece flow, minimizes energy consumption, and speeds up time to handling, which are always good things. So, we set about making a material that would answer those fundamental issues. The performance was driven by the end application. Internally, we had decided to test a lot of renewable raw materials. We know that performance is okay or better than some of the petroleum-derived alternatives, so whenever we can, our intention is to use renewably sourced materials.

This whole “how can we deliver better performance” project came together. We can make it UV-curable, and we can get a high degree of bio-renewable materials into the system. As far as the question about certified organic, for one of the raw materials, we are relying on information from our supplier. We’ve seen data that shows the the percentage of carbon-14, and from that you can calculate how much of it really is renewable. One of the other raw materials must be from an organic source. There’s no other way of getting it.

Johnson: That one’s easy.

Kinner: Yes. We did our best to fact check the supply chain and we have that data available for anyone who is interested in it; not that people wouldn’t believe us.

Johnson: At the same time, you’ve mentioned that the performance is better. Were you primarily driven to get a green coating because of a customer specification or was it the drive for improved performance?

Kinner: Absolutely. It was by design, and we knew that we could do it. It’s a win in both regards. If you’re just interested in performance, this material has it in abundance. If you want the green aspect, then that’s there too. I’ve yet to see anyone request it, but that’s been our history. We tend not to wait until customers ask for things before we make them available. With all the geopolitics that we’ve seen during the pandemic, the recent fires in California, Europe, Australia and other places, the media has been highlighting climate change. If there’s an opportunity to use bio-renewable sources, then why wouldn’t you? If you can get the performance, why wouldn’t you do it?

Johnson: What has been the customer reaction to the renewable and green characteristics of this new product?

Kinner: A couple of customers have evaluated the material and the feedback has been outstanding. They found that the performance is as we described it, which is their primary interest. The green aspect is nice to have, but what we’re really doing is future-proofing it because it’s nice to qualify material. Then, two years down the road, the government says, “You need to do your bit for the environment,” and it’s covered. It’s not something they’re necessarily thinking about, but it’s definitely nice to have. However, the key thing is the performance and that is better. Every generation of these materials has been a little bit better than the previous one. That’s continued here.

To read this entire conversation, which appeared in the November 2021 issue of SMT007 Magazine, click here.


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