Imagine yourself as a newcomer to paint formulation. You have been cutting your teeth on modifying waterborne primers and topcoats for product finishes and your lab director feels you are ready to take the lead on a new development project. A long-time customer is asking your company to supply a Direct-to-Metal (DTM) coating for a new storage system they are bringing to market. The customer is giving you a well-defined target, but neither you nor your colleagues have experience formulating DTM coatings. Where should you begin? The lab director suggests looking for an applicable starting formula.
What are Starting (or Starting Point) Formulas?
Starting formulas provide initial recipes for building a new product development program from the ground up. Using information supplied by the specific end user or Voice-of-the-Customer interviews conducted by your marketing and/or sales colleagues, target requirements for the coating can be determined. These targets define the criteria for your starting formula search. Several technical approaches might be applicable to these targets. Starting formulas are often focused on specific technologies, materials or applications. It may take some clever searching to find starting formulas to fit your needs.
Why use Starting Formulas?
Using an appropriate starting formula can prevent you from “re-inventing the wheel” if you are developing an unfamiliar product. They allow you access to the insights and experience of a variety of formulators. Staring formulas are a valuable resource that can save time and costs in your product development cycle by narrowing the focus of the ideation process.
Sources of Starting Formulas
Raw material suppliers
The traditional source of starting formulas, raw material suppliers, created them as sales tools. Back in the day, the Cargill company distributed its Helping Hand binder of starting formulas for coatings ranging from architectural trim enamels to tractor finishes. This was one of the most coveted publications for budding paint chemists and I still have my copy from the Eighties. The dawn of the digital age eliminated the files of raw material information and starting formulas that once cluttered every paint lab.
Material supplier websites are a valuable source of starting formulas now that we have left those files and binders behind. Access to starting formulas on these websites vary. Many are openly published and can be found by using a general-purpose search engine. Some companies require registration with a site administrator before accessing starting formulas. Registration allows vetting of current or prospective customers and helps prevent competitors from easily accessing information. Sometimes you have to request starting formulas from customer service kind of like the “hidden menu” at IN-N-OUT BURGER. If you want your burger “animal style” you have to ask for it.
If the potential material sales are large enough, suppliers will work with their customers to develop specific starting formulas. This takes more resources and may have a longer development cycle than using a general starting formula but can be a win-win for all parties involved.
ULProspector.com hosts starting formulas for a wide variety of coatings and associated products from many sources. This is one of the easiest ways to search for and compare starting formulas. Using the sites search function leads you through a decision tree, narrowing down your choices until you find the best possible starting formulas for your application.
Other material selector websites also offer starting point formulas. Some raw material suppliers have exclusive agreements with materials information aggregators so it can be valuable to search more than one website in order to include multiple sources.
Raw material distributors
Since they represent several raw material suppliers, distributors can offer multiple perspectives on the same problem. Wider choices of materials can help find a unique formulation to achieve your objective. Recent consolidation in the segment has led to several national distributors with their own laboratory services which can provide starting formulas and technical support.
Cooperative technical organizations
If your company is a member of a cooperative technical association, you might have access to a body of work that includes starting formulas. Organizations such as the CRGI (crgiconnect.com) or the Color Guild (colorguild.com) exist for the purpose of information sharing. Benchmarking surveys of commercially available paint products is another function of these groups. Surveys can provide helpful insights into typical coatings properties within a market segment.
How can I use starting formulas to improve my coatings product development process?
A common saying states, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”. A starting formula can help you decide which direction to begin walking. Think of it as a compass for your development process. Starting formulas are vetted solutions based on the work of experienced experts. While they are not an out of the box solution for your customers’ requirements, they will save time and money in the product development cycle.
Explore more than 800 starter formulations for the paint and coatings industry with Prospector! Jump start your formulating today!
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