From the Inside: Manufacturing
Delivering cutting-edge nanotechnology to the world’s largest and most prestigious manufacturers is no easy feat. The From the Inside blog series will take a deeper look into the elements that make P2i such a success.
First up is Supply Chain Manager, Chris Palmer. With a background in Electrical and Electronic Engineering and an MSc in Manufacturing (Management and Technology), Chris is instrumental in ensuring that the great technical effects we produce in the labs are replicated out in the field.
What do you do?
P2i offers solutions to global manufacturers to add water repellent and waterproof nano-coatings to their products. Our solutions add reliability and increased technical performance to products at the point of manufacture. My role is to ensure we are supplying the best quality equipment in the most efficient and cost effective manner.
How is the tech applied?
Despite being highly technical and offering variable perimeters, our goal is to make our systems extremely easy to use on the factory floor.
In a smartphone manufacturing line, the batches of items are loaded into the system, right at the end of production as the last step before packaging. Our coating material is applied as a vapor under low pressure. The patented pulsed-plasma then bonds the coating material to the surface and the internals of the electronic devices (it’s a nano-coating so it’s able to penetrate throughout the phone). The coating has an extremely low surface energy, so instead of being attracted and sticking to the surfaces, water and other liquids are now repelled from the treated devices.
Why don’t you coat my phone as a consumer?
There are a number of reasons why we have chosen as a company not to coat individual phones at a retail level at this stage. From my point of view it comes down to quality. As a high-tech company we aim to optimize the process for each product or device. If you don’t have that tight relationship with the device manufacturer; then you are essentially using the same coating or similar recipe on many models or make of devices and optimal results are less likely to be achieved.
How much variation is there in terms of systems for different products?
Working closely with the OEMs and contract manufacturers, who are actually producing the electronic device, ensures that we can optimize and tailor the coating exactly to the requirement of the customer’s product. We can adjust these recipes or elements on an individual system, without needing to change the process itself. We do however have a range of systems which work well for different target markets. For example, we have a machine which has an 8 liter chamber which works well in the Hearing Aid industry coating low volumes of product, while our biggest system has a 2000L chamber for processing larger items, including rolls of filtration media.
How do you see these systems and solutions developing in the future?
Our customer base continues to grow vastly year-on-year. Our equipment diversity is also growing as we develop our technology into different customer markets. These new systems allow us to further customize our technology to meet the specific needs of our customers and their products.
However, having a strong customer base for our standard systems allows us to continue to build on our high standards of manufacturing. Ongoing continuous improvement mean reduced lead times on the manufacturing, testing and validation of these systems. Our current processes are very slick. From the point of product placement purchase to delivery, we can get machines to our customers within weeks. It’s something we are very proud of and a key element to the success of P2i in high-volume manufacturing.