Newsletter Resins & Additives for Coatings

Speeding up innovation with digital material profiling

Digital Lab Teaserimage.JPG
Dr. Irene Gorman
Dr. Irene Gorman
Development Manager, Polymers & Additives for Coatings

BASF’s new Digital Material Profiling Lab was unveiled in December. It incorporates two workstreams: a fully automated formulation, application, and testing procedure, and an integrated data ecosystem that provides BASF’s colleagues global access to testing data. Dr. Irene Gorman is part of a team that designed and implemented this ground-breaking lab. We spoke to her about what it means to have this facility up and running.

Irene, on a day-to-day basis, what does the Digital Lab’s activity look like?

The lab works in tandem with our ‘traditional’ laboratories, providing a fully automated facility that seeks to add to, rather than replace, our existing capabilities.

It works as follows. Whenever we synthesize a new resin or dispersion, we send 200 g to our digital workflow. The workflow starts by formulating, applying, and curing the new samples in an automated way. The coated plates resulting from this first step are then sent to the Digital Material Profiling Lab. The Digital Lab itself will be able to test around 200 coated plates per day, with each plate passing through three scanners: one that tests surface properties, one that tests mechanical properties, and one that looks for defects. Collectively the three robots can measure a range of properties, including film thickness, gloss, distinctness of image, haze, color, surface tension, nano-indentation, and nano-scratch.

Process information and application testing results are then collected by our analysis software. Because of the structured and standardized nature of the entire workflow, the data can be easily stored, retrieved, and interpreted.


What factors did you have to consider to make this work?

Everything needed to be standardized so that our process is as robust and efficient as possible, and so that data is comparable across time. We needed to consider the formulation composition, the application method to the substrates, the substrate material, and so on.

At the core of this approach is a set of standard formulations developed for each coating technology area. This not only allows for a resilient process, but also allows for a large data set that is transparent and comparable. It’s an investment in our R&D future. The data generated ten years from now can be meaningfully benchmarked against data we produce today, helping future scientists innovate faster.


What opportunities will this create for our customers?

The speed of innovation, and the global accessibility of our data, will dramatically increase. These new digital tools allow R&D colleagues across the globe access to data in real-time. Having immediate access to all data and having a Single-Point-of-Truth, will ensure our R&D efforts are more collaborative and innovative than ever. This helps us not only discover new chemistries, but it also speeds up our development cycle, because those new innovations are available sooner. Ultimately, this means more choice and better products for our customers. I’m excited to see it become a reality.


A glimpse into BASF’s Digital Material Profiling Lab – watch the video: