Industry Insights
Coating 101: Benchwork to Production September 22, 2016 | by Brian Pahl, Business Development Manager

Carestream's contract-coating approach utilizes lab and pilot tools to develop, commercialize and bring products to market efficiently.Roll-to-roll precision coating projects involve several variables and require stringent quality guidelines. A contract manufacturer with experience developing advanced coatings can determine the proper formulation, estimate development timeline and costs, and scale-up to production.

Carestream Contract Manufacturing combines process and product development expertise with a deep understanding of precision, multi-layer coating to improve the economics and quality of coating projects. Our proven contract-coating approach utilizes lab and pilot tools to develop, commercialize and bring products to market efficiently.

The process begins early in the development stage when coating formulation, methods and product structures can be modified and fine-tuned. In the benchwork phase, Carestream’s technical team applies knowledge of solution properties such as rheology, and substrate attributes such as surface energy, to determine optimal coating methods and conduct small-sample testing. Coating rheology is one of the most critical factors in understanding fluid properties and enabling the best processes to be applied for pumping, filtering, metering, coating and drying.

Carestream also uses predictive tools, including computer modeling, to identify a starting point for coating and drying conditions. Effective modeling can optimize development cycles by reducing the time required to arrive at ideal process conditions.

For example, drying models can be used to help predict coating layer temperature and solvent concentration throughout the dryers to ensure layers are dry and conditioned before ever running an experiment. Our ability to predict and control drying in different stages saves development time, enhances productivity and dramatically improves final product quality.

The benchwork step culminates in a go/no-go decision and an initial project plan outlining fluids and coating technologies for evaluation.

Pilot Testing and Development
Carestream’s technical team applies knowledge of solution properties to determine optimal coating methods and conduct small-sample testing. The product scales up through a series of pilot coaters for coating trials, testing a range of coating solutions and conditions. Carestream’s technical team uses a well-equipped lab and pilot coaters to study materials, solutions, coating characteristics and defects.

Data from these trials is typically analyzed collaboratively to construct the best possible plan for each subsequent trial. We employ a wide variety of methods to handle a range of solutions, coating laydown, rheology, solids concentration and size, and formula chemistry. These methods combined with our understanding of the limitations of equipment speed, width, and temperatures help us match the best coating technique with specific fluid, program and drying requirements.

Scale-Up and Production
Once the starting process conditions for scale-up are identified, the process is optimized on production-scale coaters. Full production and commercial activity begins when all product quality and cost requirements are demonstrated using a capable process.

Carestream’s production process employs roll-to-roll, precision, multi-layer coating techniques to ensure maximum efficiency. Roll-to-roll coating enables high line speeds and a continuous process to lower manufacturing costs. Additionally the streamlined process afforded by roll-to-roll coating equipment that is already physically built and staffed at Carestream results in decreased time-to-market for new products.

Carestream can create structures of up to 20 precision-coated layers with options for two-sided coating, radiation cure, on-line inspection and lamination in the same pass. Our robust supply chain and inventory management system, along with quality and safety systems, ensure the delivery of superior products. We consider materials and operation risks, and we employ sophisticated in-line process control and inspection techniques, which allow the coating process to run continuously while monitoring and controlling deviations that would negatively affect product performance.

Quickly identifying and characterizing quality issues facilitates proper corrective actions, process optimization and continuous improvement in rates and yields. Automated defect maps from on-line inspection enable automated culling of substandard material – saving labor and time to deliver optimal product quality. Carestream maintains an extensive database of defects along with characteristics, origins and best resolutions acquired through experience with a broad range of substrates, coated materials and applications. These automated processes generate the documentation needed to demonstrate compliance with quality management system requirements.

Carestream’s supply chain is located in different regions of the world to enable the lowest delivered cost for finished products. Converting operations deliver roll and sheet goods with capabilities to slit and chop various products from film to paper. Our zero defect methodology ensures that all materials are properly inspected and that any remaining defects are removed.

Carestream’s converting services, proven process expertise and established roots in multi-layer coating provide substantial advantages to customers who want to bring new products to market in a cost-effective and efficient manner.

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