By Dr. Edward D. Cohen
Reasons to use contract coater
There are several situations where existing coating-based companies and potential new entries should consider using contract coaters. Contract coaters serve several functions. Often coating-based companies do not have the appropriate coating-process hardware and technology to scale-up and manufacture a new concept product. Contract coaters may have the new technology and experience needed to develop and optimize new products and possibly do initial manufacturing when there is low demand and the future commercial success of the new product is not clear. In addition, companies, individuals, and research centers that have new product concepts demonstrated in the laboratory but have no coating facilities can make good use of contract coaters.
Current web-coating line deficiencies can limit the quality and quantity of the commercial product, and thus product development and commercialization can be hampered. This can apply to companies developing new product concepts and that have only laboratory-coating facilities. Contract coating can be a fast, inexpensive route to demonstrating the product on a coating line and produce commercial quality product for evaluation. Several coating methods can be evaluated to select he optimum method. It can give realistic appraisal of the feasibility of making the product on a commercial line and obtaining an estimate of manufacturing cost, which is a key need for new products. If successful, then there is a source of saleable product.
The alternate approach of purchasing and installing the necessary pilot and production hardware can be expensive and time-consuming. In addition, the basic design data may not be available because there are no pilot-test facilities, or there may not be capital resources. Often, it is more cost-effective to continue contract manufacturing.
Another reason is that companies with existing coating lines may not have the optimum coating methods for the new product or to increase coater line speed. Every coating method has a region of optimum coatability where defect-free product can be made. New product requirements may make the current method ineffective and require a new method for optimum operation. Forcing the product to use current methods can reduce yield, quality and limit product innovation. Using toll coaters can permit the rapid selection and demonstration of the best coating method, so that existing coaters may be upgraded.
Another situation where contract coaters are effective is when current capacity limits have been reached and additional capacity is needed. Contract coaters can rapidly provide needed capacity until a decision is made to add capacity, or new technology can be evaluated at a contract coater.
The AIMCAL SourceBook of member companies (www.aimcal.org/sourcebook.html) and the Converting Quarterly Buyers Guide (https://web.convertingquarterly. com/buyersguide/search) feature listings of contract coaters. Converting-based technical meetings, such as the AIMCAL R2R Conference USA, often have presentations and exhibits by contract coaters. The published abstracts of these meetings also are a good source. And of course, online searching will yield contact coaters and their capabilities.