When VCF Films Inc. introduced its new slot-die coating line last year, it was looking to enter new markets and expand its research and development opportunities.
"It's proving to be what we thought it could be. It's opening many more doors," said Ray Durling, VCF Films vice president of sales and marketing, in a telephone interview.
The custom web line works with highly engineered films. It can process many different polymers and additives and apply them to almost any flexible substrate, according to the Howell, Mich.-based company.
The line can be used on widths up to 33 inches, and is suitable for flexible electronics and displays as well as medical, aerospace, solar energy and optical devices, the company said.
"It allows us to be much more accountable with film," Durling said.
Durling noted that the slot-die coating machine works especially well with thinner films that need tighter tolerances and more quality control. It produces film that is pinhole- and gel-free and can help control costs, especially when expensive materials need to be conserved.
One niche market the slot-die coating line has helped VCF develop is in using carbon conductive film in making medical electrodes.
The company has developed R&D possibilities for the line through the combined efforts of engineering director Cliff Lichlyter, technical sales engineer J.C. Brouet and R&D chemist Russell Goering.
The trio provides a broad scope of practical and theoretical experience, for fine-tuning projects in the development stage, Durling said.
Lichlyter's 40 years of experience with slot-die manufacturing provides the practical background, Durling said, while Brouet and Goering provide the scientific background for polymers and formulations.
"The new markets we work in and the high cost of materials involved require a meticulous approach to formulate coatings and fine-tuning our machinery," Brouet said in a statement.
Lichlyter said a push for zero defects and stringent cost controls has resulted in higher-quality products.
The team effort has made the new line a successful vehicle for developing new products, according to Durling.
VCF Films has been working with thin films and coatings since 1964. The company can cast tight-tolerance films as thin as a few microns.