Lubrizol often collaborates very closely with customers to develop advanced coatings, inks and adhesives using the latest in component technology innovation, including resins, dispersants, wax additives, and specialty additives. But those same coatings, inks and adhesives developed in a lab must perform as expected when applied in the real world. How do we get from the lab to the real world? It’s Application Testing. Application testing is an extremely important part of bringing new products to market because it ensures they will provide the properties that formulators and end users expect.
When Lubrizol sells products for use in various applications, we have to be able to prove that our products and formulas work in those areas, and that they will provide real benefits for both customers and end users. Our products are incorporated into a wide range of end-use applications. We have extensive testing capabilities through labs strategically located around the world where we test across all of these water-based, solvent-based, or 100% solids products and their almost limitless applications.
What we test varies by market depending on the properties that are important to that market. As some examples of specific properties, in metal coatings we know corrosion resistance is critical. In automotive topcoats, appearance is big. With wood coatings, the coefficient of friction (slip) is important. Stain resistance is key across many coatings, although the types of stains vary.
Our lab testing specialties vary by location, with some labs offering more specialized capabilities than others, such as dedicated textile and digital labs that are located close to where customers operate. Some of the tests and formulations are also different by region, where there might be different priorities or regulations in a certain region.
Lab testing should relate to the real-world situations the coating will endure, such as scuffing of floors, corrosion for metal parts, weather for architectural coatings, stain resistance, etc. Lab testing should also be predictive—generating data on how a coating, ink or adhesive is expected to perform without the need to apply the product and then monitor it for several months or years (although we do offer test that too).
Predictive testing offers much faster answers and the ability to screen more samples in less time, accurately predicting if formulations will work in the real world and providing confidence that the properties promised will hold up over time. For example, accelerated weathering for vinyl siding can provide results in 1,000 or 2,000 hours that can predict potential failure in five or 10 years. Electrochemical Impedance Spectroscopy (EIS) testing is a quantitative method used for the accelerated evaluation of the anti-corrosion performance of protective coatings, which takes a total of 3 to 5 days for testing, and not 6 months or more. These are just a couple examples of the types of predictive tests we do. We offer many more types of tests and are always working to improve our testing capabilities.
Examples of some other types of tests are the scrub test, where the surface of a coating is rubbed thousands of times to analyze what would happen in real-world usage. This is done, for example, on stains for cabinet coatings to see how they will hold up. Repeated impact testing is performed for floors to determine if they will warp or how long will it take for shoe marks to appear. In-can testing is another example, which is used to determine if the formulations will be stable over time.
Some tests are similar across industries but vary by end use. For example, chemical/stain resistance is a common test, but the materials used can change from food products and household cleaners to industrial chemicals, such as acids.
Other test can be very market specific, like:
- MFMA (Maple Floor Manufactures Association), which has specific standards to receive its stamp of approval
- IKEA specifications (the Swedish furniture retail company)
- Auto manufacturers, who each have multiple specs for coatings
- Masonry – ASTM D 6083 tests for how a roof coating will stand up to weathering
Collaboration is Key
Testing works best when we can collaborate with customers, to ensure they see the same trends we do and that the results also correlate to what end users experience. When we begin the development of a new product, we speak to customers to understand they require, such as the type of tests and results they seek to ensure our product achieves pre-established performance requirements.
If additional testing is requested, we are happy to do that. Customers might ask to have different tests performed or different formulations tested. The objective is to work with each customer to meet their needs. For larger customers who have more of their own capabilities, we can provide a starting point formulation and data package and then they’ll do development work. For smaller customers, we often proceed closer to the finished product and then they can rely on us to provide much more of the test data.
Regardless of the end-use application, we have testing to support the products we develop and sell to ensure each one meets the exacting specifications our customers expect. Because we work as a network globally, if one Lubrizol lab can’t run a test for some reason, a lab in one of the other regions is there for support.