Interview – it´s definitely 120
Whether they have to be adhesive, especially wear resistant or resistant to high temperatures – the demands placed on coatings are wide-ranging, which means that the offer must be equally comprehensive. Today, when it comes to the finishing and coating of rotationally symmetrical products such as rollers or tubes, INOMETA is a specialist, a title we have worked hard to achieve and to which many of our colleagues have contributed. For our 40-year Special we have got together with two experts to talk a little about coatings and their history. We talk to Markus Krecht and Stephan Palenga about the early days, ongoing developments and the latest challenges in the world of technical coatings.
Welcome to you both, and many thanks for taking the time to share your experience with us and provide some insight into the world of coatings. Before we come to today, let’s begin at the very beginning. Mr. Krecht, in 1999 you were recruited as a skilled operative for a department that was new at the time. Tell us a little bit about how that hap-pened.
That’s right – I joined INOMETA as a coater in 1999. Not that there was a great deal to coat at that time – there was neither the technology nor the know-how. First we were trained for 18 months so that we had some idea of what was expected of us. There are so many requirements that roller coating has to meet: coat thicknesses and coat structure, stress curves, adhesive properties, coating temperatures, swelling behaviour, corrosion, to name just a few. We know all about it today, but back then it was uncharted territory.
So back then there was no known technology for coating rollers?
Correct. In those days we were all working flat out to install the coating system in our own production halls. It was the biggest coating system of its type in the world at that time, by the way, and I have to admit that we had a little respect even in those early days. Ultimately we wanted to deliver from the very start, and we couldn’t afford to make any slip-ups as novices in the coating market. That much we all knew.
Mr. Palenga, while the colleagues were building up their know-how in Production, it was your job to place the new products on the market and find some enthusiastic customers for them.
I well remember the first discussions we had. You can imagine that we were required to sell a product which we basically did not yet have at that time. There was no question that a big market for coated rollers already existed at that time, and it was that huge demand which was pointing us in the right direction. But we just did not fully understand the detail of these challenges in those early days.
What specific challenges are we talking about?
We used to walk through our customers’ open door and say we had the solutions to lots of problems. At that time our product portfolio – like our experience – was still very limited, so we quickly broke out in a sweat as we struggled to find the answers to customers’ questions. The requirements for material web transport are manifold: stick and anti-stick, insulating and conductive, surface topographies, spirals, friction values and many other parameters. What I can tell you is that eventually we found an answer to everything, but getting there was a rocky road now and then. Of course in the end you could not tell this from the product quality because the end result was first-class and laid the foundation for a huge portfolio of innovative coating solutions.
Mr. Krecht, can you remember any landmark moment from those early days?
Of course there were lots of successes which we celebrated together with our young motivated crew. They were all hungry for the next big thing, the next milestone, and they were overjoyed when they were able to turn the knowledge they had learned into action and after many hours of work offer the customer a product capable of helping him increase his competitive advantage or improve his production processes.
Mr. Palenga, which milestone stands out in particular for you? Can you remember?
The coating of CFRP rollers. A development from which we are still profiting very strongly today. Manufacturing CFRP rollers, sleeves or adapters is one thing, but coating these components is quite another. This is a unique technology combination. It is of course something we are very proud of and which we continue to develop on a daily basis. Today we can offer a portfolio of around 120 different surface coatings, all of which were developed in-house.
Functional coatings face rapidly rising challenges, but thanks to our great flexibility and adaptability we will continue to be a reliable partner for our customers in the future. Our expert Christian Steffens is responsible for our development and production, and is constantly immersed in new technologies, working very closely with institutes and manufacturers of plant engineering and spray additives. Mr. Steffens and his team will see to it that we remain a technology leader!