Company: Bichwood Casey
Interview with: Mark Ruhland, Vice President
What factors led to Birchwood Casey introducing this product?
This CLEARLOK MAX Topcoat was developed in order to accommodate a key customer who needed a clear, glossy topcoat for hex keys and other hand tools that are shipped to Asia. The coating needed to be applied in a very thin film (so as not to change the dimensions of the tools), but with enough scratch resistance to be applied in a bulk dipping/spindrying operation. The customer also needed good salt spray resistance, but wanted a coating that could be removed with an alkaline soak cleaner. Our development was successful, as the customer now uses the CLEARLOK MAX on a production-scale and reports that the product easily satisfies his performance requirements, at minimal cost.
How is this product different from similar products?
The CLEARLOK MAX forms a coating that provides a unique combination of hardness, and scratch resistance and is still removable in an alkaline detergent cleaner. Most other products on the market are either significantly less scratch resistant or are difficult to remove. The customer likes this combination of properties. In addition, some of his part numbers are topsealed with our DRI TOUCH AMBER rust inhibitor, for additional salt spray resistance in severe duty applications. This gives our customer the ability to accommodate special requirements by his customers, thereby solidifying his supply relationship with his key customers overseas.
Any significant problems encountered during development?
We tested many different combinations of polymers to find the combination that produced the properties we were looking for. We also performed corrosion testing in salt spray and humidity. Because the product is a water-based emulsion, the challenge was to make it stable in cold temperatures for shipping during Minnesota winter. Our technical team performed very well to meet these challenges.
How long did it take—from conception to ultimate production?
Because the customer was working on a short timetable, the entire project took about four months. This is shorter than our normal development/testing period; however, our customer offered valuable assistance by testing several of the experimental intermediates that we developed along the way. By working together, we were able to continually refine our search and quickly zero in on the correct blend of raw materials and surface properties.
How did cost factors affect the final design of the product?
Yes, operating cost is always important because our customer is selling hand tools in a very price competitive market (Asia). With this in mind, we were motivated to keep our costs to a minimum.
That said, for this customer, cost was secondary to performance. His primary concern was the corrosion resistance and durability of the finish so that he could deliver high quality tools to his customers.
Who is your target audience and what benefits will they realize from using this product?
We expect that many of our current customers and other new customers will be candidates for theCLEARLOK MAX Topcoat. We are currently evaluating its use in several other plants that produce oilfield equipment, cutting tools, power transfer equipment, valve bodies, etc. Each customer has slightly different surface requirements, so we are working with them to refine the application in order to achieve the performance they need.
Please add any other interesting sidelights in the development of this product that you think our readers would enjoy knowing.
We are continually evaluating many different product ideas. Some ideas move forward to be developed and refined, and finally, offered to the market. Others don’t make it, for a variety of reasons. Knowing which products have merit is often a challenge in itself. We appreciate the fact that our customer approached us to develop this product for them. It shows their confidence in our company, and helps us to identify the product characteristics that the market needs. We were pleased that we could accommodate their request.
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